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: 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:

A voteDecisions, Decisions: II
Most of us have participated in group decision making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions?
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In meetings, keeping a list we call the "parking lot" is a fairly standard practice. As the discussion unfolds, we "park" there any items that arise that aren't on the agenda, but which we believe could be important someday soon. Here are some tips for making your parking lot process more effective.
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Creative thinking at work can be nurtured or encouraged, but not forced or compelled. Leaders who try to compel creativity because of very real financial and schedule pressures rarely get the results they seek. Here are examples of tactics people use in mostly-futile attempts to compel creativity.
A serene mountain lakeNine Brainstorming Demotivators: I
The quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is notoriously variable. One source of variation is the enthusiasm of contributors. Here's Part I of a set of nine phenomena that can limit contributions to brainstorm sessions.
A VoiceStation 500 speakerphone by PolycomInterrupting Others in Meetings Safely: II
When we feel the need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, to offer a view or information, we would do well to consider (and mitigate) the risk of giving offense. Here are some techniques for interrupting the speaker in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The future site of 2 World Trade Center as it appeared in 2013Coming October 5: Downscoping Under Pressure: I
When projects overrun their budgets and/or schedules, we sometimes "downscope" to save time and money. The tactic can succeed — and fail. Three common anti-patterns involve politics, the sunk cost effect, and cognitive biases that distort estimates. Available here and by RSS on October 5.
A hummingbird feeding on the nectar of a flowerAnd on October 12: Downscoping Under Pressure: II
We sometimes "downscope" projects to bring them back on budget and schedule when they're headed for overruns. Downscoping doesn't always work. Cognitive biases like the sunk cost effect and confirmation bias can distort decisions about how to downscope. Available here and by RSS on October 12.

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