Disentangle Meetings


If bureaucracy is the cancer of organizations, meetings are its metastases. While generally to be avoided, there are several situations where calling a meeting is the most efficient management tool. For example, an occasional all hands meetings is much more powerful way of delivering message of top brass to the team than a string of emails. Similarly, if a thread of emails becomes too long an in-person discussion is the quickest way of getting everybody on the same page. If a meeting has a clear agenda, is limited in time, discusses a topic that is dear to all the attendees, and has produced decisions and action items, it might even be a pleasant occasion. What we really have to dread are meetings that deteriorate to long-winded battling grounds of opinionated people without any outcome. In my experience, the worst meetings are the ones where several different meetings lump into one. For example, a status meeting that turns into decision-making meeting quite often turns into unproductive discussion of unprepared people with no clear agenda. Similarly, if people at several different levels of hierarchy try to conduct decision making at the same meeting perpetual mixing of strategical and tactical perspectives results in utmost confusion. While many bad meetings can be avoided by carefully planning the agenda and selection of participants, it is attendees who make or break a meeting. If they don't come prepared, if they don't understand what topics to discuss at meetings and what to leave for 1:1 discussions, if they wear more than one hat, or just can't keep quiet, even the best organized meeting will fail.

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