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Volume 8, Issue 40;   October 1, 2008: How to Eliminate Meetings

How to Eliminate Meetings

by

Last updated: July 23, 2019

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: I  Next Issue

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:

GEN Eric Shinseki and CWO Nicholas PunimataThe Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Group Dynamics
When a team relies on group discussion alone to evaluate proposals for the latest show-stopping near-disaster, it exposes itself to the risk that perfectly sound proposals might be inappropriately rejected. The source of some of this risk is the nature of group discussion.
Heiltskuk Icefield, British ColumbiaFinding the Third Way
When a team is divided, and agreement seems out of reach, attempts to resolve the conflict usually focus on the differences between the contrasting positions. Focusing instead on their similarities can be a productive technique for reaching agreement.
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The problem of people who dominate meetings is so serious that we've even devised processes intended to more fairly allocate speaking time. What's happening here?
Attending a virtual meeting, but disengagedToward More Engaging Virtual Meetings: II
Here's Part II of a set of simple techniques to help virtual meeting facilitators enhance attendee engagement.
A group engaged in a brainstormBrainstorming and Speedstorming: I
Recent research suggests that brainstorming might not be as effective as we would like to believe it is. An alternative, speedstorming, might have some advantages for some teams solving some problems.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A meeting held in a long conference room.Coming July 8: Multi-Expert Consensus
Some working groups consist of experts from many fields. When they must reach a decision by consensus, members have several options. Defining those options in advance can help the group reach a decision with all its relationships intact. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
A dictionaryAnd on July 15: Disjoint Concept Vocabularies
In disputes or in problem solving sessions, when we can't seem to come to agreement, we often attribute the difficulty to miscommunication, histories of disagreements, hidden agendas, or "personality clashes." Sometimes the cause is much simpler. Sometimes the concept vocabularies of the parties don't overlap. Available here and by RSS on July 15.

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