Attending meetings is a reality of working in any office. Good meetings facilitate good communication. Information is exchanged efficiently and people have access to the necessary perspectives. Meetings help employees align around important goals and reduce unwanted surprises. They foster positive relationships by bringing people face-to-face and help prevent the sorts of silos and echo chambers that can develop inside a big company.

But without proper consideration for why they're happening, meetings can be a huge drag on efficiency, forcing people to spend less time on the work truly essential to them. Meetings can often represent a lot of effort to share a little information.

There are two competing impulses to balance: the desire to communicate and collaborate versus the need to be efficient and incisive. At Credit Karma, we're always working to have as few large, standing meetings as possible, replacing them where appropriate with impromptu one-on-ones and email. We want people to be reflective about the meetings they attend, looking at what they found valuable and how they could be improved.

We've developed a good framework internally to help us strike this balance.

As a start, employees need to believe in their coworkers

People shouldn't be motivated to set meetings by the desire to check up on someone else's work. These types of meetings rarely do any good. At Credit Karma, we want our employees to assume a high level of competency in their coworkers. We put a lot of effort into finding passionate and engaged people who will excel at their job. As a baseline, if people trust that their team members are good at what they do and want to get things done, meetings become more about moving projects forward than going back over work that has already been done.

It's less important who is doing it, just that it is getting done

An important part of reducing needless meetings is eliminating any sense of territorialism in the workplace. People shouldn't be trying to work themselves into a project. It's okay to not be involved in a project, as long as someone capable is getting it done. If people put faith in their coworkers and are focused on the bigger picture, it's an easy mindset to adopt.

Develop a consensus about what constitutes a good meeting

Not all meetings are created equal. The most successful meetings fall into clear criteria. A productive meeting needs a clear purpose that aligns with the priorities of everyone at the meeting. It also needs to be something that can only get done in person.

Know the different traps bad meetings fall into

With meetings, more isn't merrier. At Credit Karma, we encourage people to know the purpose of every meeting they attend and turn down meeting requests if they don't think their presence is needed. It is more efficient for everyone. It's also important to avoid meetings that are set up simply to inform people that something is happening. There's rarely a good reason to meet if you could just send an email and no one would be worse off.

Set criteria internally for good decision-making

One of the dangers of a meeting-heavy work culture is that people become too comfortable with decision-making by committee. Inside every meeting, if a decision needs to be made, everybody needs to know who the decider is. There are three elements to every good decision: you need the experience and ability to make the decision, a clear strategy behind why you're making it and the data to back it up. If people are equipped with the confidence to make well-reasoned choices, they're less likely to want to use meetings as a crutch.

Published on: Mar 31, 2015
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