Sunday, April 24, 2011

Would you have time to read this if you weren't in a meeting?

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on....................................."


Some time ago, after watching a lot of those Nature / Animal shows that focus on the continental migrations in Africa, I came to the conclusion that the poor Wildebeest’s whole purpose in life was to just run up and down the length of Africa year after year while a bunch of other species picked them off one by one for lunch or dinner. I suspected that if you asked a Wildebeest what he did, that is what he would tell you his job was.

It occurred to me the other day that in the modern world the whole purpose of human beings engaged in some kind of business (and doesn’t matter what) is to have meetings. That’s what we do. It’s like going to meetings, calling meetings, having or taking meetings - is our real job. We meet – in big groups, small groups, one on one, on the phone, in person, at conferences, in the hall – virtually most of every day is spent “meeting”. If we’re not in a meeting, we’re preparing for a meeting. Even a phone call is a ‘meeting’. And the higher up on the leadership ladder, the more meetings you have. I’m not exactly sure why – maybe it’s to make sure everybody is on the same page, and that whoever out there is actually doing some work, is, well, doing it. We meet every day, often all day. We meet about anything, and everything. It’s a wonder any work at all ever gets done – with everyone always in a meeting. I’m in a meeting right now. No one else is here, but I’m meeting with myself.

How often every day do you hear this: “So and so can’t come to the phone, s/he is in a meeting.” “Would you like to schedule a meeting to discuss that?” “Why don’t we have a meeting and talk about that.” “ When is the meeting?” “The meeting was cancelled? Are you sure?” “OK, get him and her and we’ll meet.” “Can you meet tomorrow? Later in the week then. Next month?” “I can’t talk right now, I’ve got a meeting in five minutes.”

Are all these meetings really necessary? Are they really productive? Do they really all accomplish some purpose? How much time is wasted on needless and unnecessary meetings?

Neither cats or dogs, nor packs of wolves, prides of lions, herds of elephants or any other species seem to have meetings. Or if they do, they only last a couple of minutes. Then again, maybe if the dumb Wildebeests met more often, they could come up with a plan.

What if - all meetings were banned the second and fourth week of every month? Would the world end? Would all productivity cease? Would the wheels of our organizations grind to a halt? Could the typical meeting be replaced by a few inter-office memos or emails – or is that just replacing one sort of meeting with another? If you made a chart of all the meetings you called or went to over the next month, how many do you think you would say (after the fact) were really necessary, or productive, or frankly, worth your time? If everybody is in the meeting, who is doing the work? Are some of our meetings just because we are insecure about what the hell is going on, about what we are doing – and so we have to have meetings to reassure ourselves everything is under control? Maybe we don’t trust each other, or ourselves.

Has technology changed meeting etiquette?  Is it ok now to text or tweet while you are in a meeting?  Google lets their people do that I think.  Are you suppose to turn off your cell phone, or is that really a good way to get out of a meeting? 

I just think maybe we have gotten to the point where we waste a lot of precious time – unnecessarily – in meetings. Time that could be spent doing something really productive – like afternoon napping maybe. Then again perhaps I am just wrong. I’ll tell you what, let’s schedule a meeting and get everybody there and we can discuss it. I’ve got to go right now though – I’ve got a meeting – some representatives from the Wildebeest group are coming in to talk.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit.