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

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:

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.
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Many of us abhor meetings. Words like boring, silly, and waste come to mind. But for some meeting chairs, meetings aren't boring at all, because they fear losing control of the agenda. To maintain control, they use the techniques of the Agenda Despots.
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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.
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To characterize is to offer a description of a person, event, or concept. Characterizations are usually judgmental, and usually serve one side of a debate. And they often make trouble.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A possibly difficult choiceComing April 21: Choice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to evaluate our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes. Available here and by RSS on April 21.
Two people engaged in pair collaborationAnd on April 28: The Self-Explanation Effect
In the learning context, self-explanation is the act of explaining to oneself what one is learning. Self-explanation has been shown to increase the rate of acquiring mastery. The mystery is why we don't structure knowledge work to exploit this phenomenon. Available here and by RSS on April 28.

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Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

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