Slow Down and You’ll Reach Your Goal Sooner

I find it fascinating that many people complain about organizational behaviors, yet nothing changes. Want to be more agile? Change something. Let’s take meetings, for example. It seems that most people complain about meetings.

Here are some of the most common complaints:

  • There no clear purpose or objective is offered.
  • No meeting agenda or timeline is published.
  • Attendees tend to ramble or repeat previous comments.
  • Meetings fail to inspire or motivate and nothing new is learned.
  • Little team interaction or collaboration takes place.
  • There are no specific action items or take-away points.
  • They start late and wander aimlessly, only to end late.
  • They are too long for the value generated, if any.
  • Information is repeated for late arrivals making it advantageous to be late.
  • Primary presenters are unprepared, boring, redundant, and generally weak.

That’s a pretty serious indictment of meetings across the corporate world. I’m sure you can relate to more than one of those reasons. So, if most of us hate meetings so much, why do they continue to dominate corporate cultures?

Many managers actually like meetings. Meetings give managers an opportunity to connect with a group in far less time than trying to meet with everyone one-on-one. Problems arise when the managers are ill-prepared and focused on their needs, but not the needs of the group.

Meetings are also ingrained as a critical element in some business processes. You often see a business process with a few steps followed by ‘stop and call a meeting’ … a few more steps and ‘stop and call another meeting’ … etc. Calling a meeting may be the no-brainer approach but is it really optimal given all of the technology we have today?

What’s the solution?

If you look closely at the reasons above, you’ll note that people don’t necessarily hate meetings. They hate how meetings are conducted. This is a business process problem that can be solved.

Start small. Ask people who schedule many meetings why they believe so many meetings are needed. Help them fix their meetings — make them shorter, less frequent, more focused, less redundant, etc. Also help them explore alternatives such as using social media tools to replace some meetings.

Whenever you feel compelled to call a meeting, lead by example. Address the issues above, ask for feedback, and suggest that others should follow a similar approach. Consider stand-up meetings to help keep them short and emphasize the importance of time. Schedule your meetings for 30 minutes whenever you can and never go beyond 50 minutes. People need an opportunity to pack up and head off to their next meetings. (College courses rarely start and end on the hour. There’s a reason for that!)

We won’t be able to cure the scourge of meetings anytime soon. They are too ingrained in our corporate cultures. But small steps can make a difference.

The same rule applies to any group behavior you’d like to change. Start small. Trying to change too much, too fast is too hard. Slow down and you’ll reach your goal sooner. Be agile!

Updated: February 28, 2012 — 10:23 pm