Ever entered a ‘quick’ meeting only to leave it one and a half hours later thinking to yourself, “this could have been covered in one e-mail and I didn’t get any of my questions answered”? Well, you’re not alone. Meetings are often the bane of workplace productivity because they eat into precious office time and throw people’s individual schedules off balance. A study in the Harvard Business Review revealed that at one company, employees spent a total of 300, 000 hours in one year, on one weekly meeting (this included time preparing for the meeting). More and more, companies seem to be realising that meetings are just a waste of time.
Why they don’t work
They get hijacked:
Often, it’s the aggressive and/or self-confident employees who take the floor as often as possible. This can, in effect, hijack the entire meeting because it is their voices and ideas that are being heard. As a result it’s not really a ‘company’ or ‘group’ meeting. It’s a meeting of three people, when there are actually 10 people in the room.
They suppress debate:
Such scenarios also have the effect of silencing genuine feedback and suggestions because of fear of embarrassment (what if my idea isn’t good enough or smart enough?) This results in the Bike Shed Effect, which is when complex or difficult subject matter is deferred in favour of talking about trivialities like building a bike shed in the office parking lot. Employees feel that less is at stake if they speak up in the course of such discussions and like they ‘contributed’ to the meeting.
They get in the way of decision-making:
Clearly, discussing a bike shed instead of, say, ways to improve workflow actually hinders decision-making, and leaves meeting agendas incomplete.
Try this instead
Instead of holding meetings there are other, more interesting, ways to facilitate democratic decision making without eating into significant swathes of employee time. Otherwise called meeting management, here are some team meeting ideas to help manage, modify, or even replace the traditional meeting format:
Have meetings standing up:
One study found that sit-down meetings take up 34 per cent more time than stand up meetings, but both are equally productive (when they’re productive). Why take twice the time to do the same quantum of work?
Meetings are supposed to be opportunities to ‘brainstorm’ ideas, since more brains are better than one. This is a one size fits all assumption. Not everyone is able to think productively when surrounded by a noisy group of people. Some of us need silence. Dr. Tony McCaffrey, the man behind the idea, says that brainswarming allows people to work together on the same problem, but independently. Instead of speaking out loud, participants write their suggestions down and post them on a common board. Participants see each other’s work, which influences their ideas. When tested, this approach generated 115 ideas in 15 minutes compared to 100 ideas in 60 minutes. Meetings can be revised and retooled. All roads may lead to Rome, but some get you there faster!