Are Meetings Necessary?

Are Meetings Necessary?

We spend a lot of time in meetings.  The average business person spends 40% of their time in meetings.  That translates into 16 hours of a 40 hour week. Some seem more effective than others.  The question is:  Do you really need a meeting? 

There are valid reasons for holding meetings.  These would include:

  • Make a decision.  Some decisions require evaluating alternatives and then selecting the one which meets the requirements or situation best.  It may require multiple points of view, input or buy-in to make that decision.  In these instances, a meeting may be the best often for making a decision.  On the other hand, if it is a simple yes / no decision that only one person can make, then an email or a phone call would be more effective.
  • Time Criticality: Have you tried to get information from one or more people and met with a lack of responsiveness?  They haven’t responded to your repeated emails or phone messages?  If so, now is the time to set up a meeting and force the issue.
  • Problem solving:  A project issue or risk has been identified and you require the knowledge and expertise of two or more people to identify alternative approaches to solving the problem.  While it may be possible to have one-on-one discussions with each party and consolidate the information, it may be better to bring the parties together for a meeting.  This is especially true when the problem is more likely to be resolved based on conversations between the parties.
  • Team building: Productivity suffers when we feel disconnected from our team or if we don’t spend time developing relationships.  Meetings can be used to improve our relationships and keep people focused and in touch.

There are also times we hold meetings but shouldn't.  Such as:

  • Provide historical information.  There are many meetings that are used to provide information about things that have already occurred.  These are facts and other pertinent pieces of information but there may be a better way to share that information in the form of a report, newsletter or team collaboration tools.  For example, providing status doesn't necessarily require a meeting.  A report could work.  But often we combine statusing with addressing issues.  Separate statusing from issue management and you'll find you spend your time more efficiently.
  • Recurring meetings: just because you've always had the meeting doesn’t necessarily mean we still need the meeting.  Take a look at your schedule of meetings and push back.  As your team and stakeholders, is there still value in holding the meeting or can we cancel it?  Recurring or standing meetings are often held out of habit rather than need. 
  • Poor meeting management practices:  Likewise, if you are invited to a meeting it doesn’t mean you really need to attend.  Unfortunately too many companies practice poor meeting management.  There's no agenda,  no meeting minutes and the wrong people attend.  This is a waste of everyone's time and the company's most valuable resources.  There are more meetings simply because we don't get the agenda items accomplished in a single meeting and end up with multiple meetings instead.  Are you having meetings to decide whether or not you need a meeting?  Think about it.

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