I was recently out to lunch with a few colleagues who work at a very cool company. The CEO of their company had left, and the second in command had taken over. They like her, but they said the number of meetings they're required to go to now has doubled.
They were describing my hell.
Now, I don't think that meetings are completely useless. But I do think that most companies have useless meetings, including my own. And the people at my company, VerticalResponse, will tell you that they know how I feel.
Why do I hate meetings? Let me count the ways.
1. Meetings allow people to delay decisions.
In a meeting, Jonathan says to the sales guy, "Jason, let's take that offline and have a meeting about it next Tuesday, cool?" What he really meant to say was, "Jason, let's take that offline and have a meeting about it next Tuesday, because it's too much for me to think about it now and make a decision. I'm a wussy, cool?" Jason just lost a full week of revenue.
2. Most people who are in meetings don't need to be there.
You can tell, because these people jump on their computers during the meeting not to take notes but to instant message or catch up on email. Let me tell you how much time is wasted by these very people saying, "Can you repeat that?"
3. People call meetings because they're afraid to make a decision.
They get their boss and their boss's boss into the meeting so that they can bring up an issue only to be told what to do because they're scared to have a brain. Hey, people, news flash: You've probably been hired to walk into your boss's office and make recommendations on what YOU think the business should do, so do that and stop wasting everyone's time.
4. Many people who call a meeting don't have a clear agenda or objective.
Here's an idea: At the start of the meeting, say, "Here's what we're going to get out of this meeting," or, "By the end of this meeting, we'll dole out responsibilities so you know what you need to do."
5. People call 30-minute meetings for things that can be decided in five minutes.
Three people can probably come together and give the go-ahead in seconds rather than book a room, meet, probably come up with a PowerPoint presentation (more time wasted) and come to a decision that someone else needs to decide. BOO. My motto? DO SOMETHING! Even if it's wrong, you went for it, and with any luck, you either hit a home run or learned what not to do in the future.
6. Most meetings cost too much.
Do I think there is a place for meetings? Absolutely! But the result of any meeting has to be to make your business better. Are your meetings doing that?