Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 8, Issue 40;   October 1, 2008: How to Eliminate Meetings

How to Eliminate Meetings

by

Reducing the length and frequency of meetings is the holy grail of organizational science. I've attended many meetings on this topic, most of which have come to naught. Here are some radical ideas that could change our lives.
Freight Peer Exchange participants discuss freight business opportunities

Freight Peer Exchange participants discuss freight business opportunities. Have you ever attended a two-hour or all-day meeting that looked sort of like this? How much of it did you consider truly worthwhile? Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

Meetings are a pain in the neck for everybody with a neck. And they cost money too, which annoys shareholders. Clearly, we need to eliminate meetings, or at least reduce them to the point where they only bother shareholders.

I've conducted extensive research to solve the problem of meetings. Although I collected tons of survey data, I must admit that like many corporate surveys, I never actually analyzed the data, because I knew exactly what conclusions I wanted to reach, after thinking deeply for several minutes. Actually, I never even conducted the survey, because it seemed like such a waste since I had already decided not to analyze the data.

So here are six sure-fire ways to eliminate meetings, according to the survey I would have conducted, if I had actually done the survey and then actually analyzed the data.

Get rid of half your conference rooms
Conference rooms are without a doubt the leading cause of meetings. According to my calculations, removing 50% of the conference rooms will reduce meetings by approximately 50%.
Forbid meetings on even-numbered dates
Since getting rid of half the conference rooms eliminates half the meetings, we can painlessly eliminate the half of the meetings that would normally be scheduled on even-numbered dates. Um, wait. That won't work. Never mind.
Eliminate any meeting whose main agenda item contains the words "review," "strategy" or "status"
This includes items like Contract Review, Strategy Review, Project Status, and the dreaded Contract Strategy Project Status Review. These are usually the most painful drug-out affairs, and getting rid of them produces substantial economies that go straight to the bottom line, strategy-wise.
Meetings are a
pain in the neck
for everybody
with a neck
Ban anyone with the title "director" (or above) from "sitting in"
Banning these people not only saves them time, but also saves time for the people whose meetings into which they're sitting on, because as everybody knows, high-level sitters-in are the main cause of PowerPoint.
Make four-wheel drive illegal
A key element of meetings is the attendees. Making four-wheel drive illegal will keep many of them from attending in bad winter weather. In places where snow is rare, I advocate making automobile air conditioning illegal, just to be fair.
Change daylight savings time
Have daylight savings time only in months that contain either M, J but not R, or E but not T. Meeting attendance would fall rapidly, because studies I haven't done indicate that less than 30% of us could figure out which months, if any, would have daylight savings time. And no software company I know of could implement this algorithm without crashing Windows.

I have one final idea for the meetings we can't eliminate. They would be much shorter if we could all agree to agree with each other more often. So get everyone else to agree with you. Or maybe you can just agree with them. Whatever. Go to top Top  Next issue: When You're the Least of the Best: Part I  Next Issue

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101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

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Related articles

More articles on Effective Meetings:

A late rabbitGames for Meetings: Part III
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part III of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
Tenacious under full sailThe Solving Lamp Is Lit
We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
A single-strand knotTangled Thread Troubles
Even when we use a facilitator to manage a discussion, managing a queue for contributors can sometimes lead to problems. Here's a little catalog of those difficulties.
An Empire AppleVirtual Meetings: Dealing with Inattention
There is much we can do to reduce the incidence of inattention in virtual meetings. Cooperation is required.
Brendan Nyhan and Jason ReiflerHistorical Debates at Work
One obstacle to high performance in teams is the historical debate — arguing about who said what and when, or who agreed to what and when. Here are suggestions for ending and preventing historical debates.

See also Effective Meetings and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A vizsla in a pose called the play bowComing April 26: Why Dogs Make the Best Teammates
Dogs make great teammates. It's in their constitutions. We can learn a lot from dogs about being good teammates. Available here and by RSS on April 26.
A business meetingAnd on May 3: Start the Meeting with a Check-In
Check-ins give meeting attendees a chance to express satisfaction or surface concerns about how things are going. They're a valuable aid to groups that want to stay on course, or get back on course when needed. Available here and by RSS on May 3.

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