4 signs a meeting is a waste of time
(MoneyWatch) Lately, I've encountered several people with a problem: They can't do the job they were hired to do during the work day. The issue isn't so much distraction, it's that they're booked solid in meetings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If they want to get anything done, they have to work on nights and weekends.
We've tried to diagnose the problem together. Why, exactly, are there so many meetings? There turn out to be many bad reasons for scheduling meetings -- and only a few good ones. Here are the bad ones -- meeting justifications that suggest a lot of people are about to waste their time:
1. To check in. Under the illusion that this constitutes management, the boss requires a meeting every week, or (worse) a call every morning to confirm that everyone is still doing her job. If you need a meeting for this, you have a much bigger problem -- and probably need more clear job objectives and (perhaps) a different team.
- What is your time worth?
- Does social media really kill productivity?
- Create your own career insurance policy
2. To share information. We have wonderful communication tools these days called email, or even document sharing systems (like Google Docs). People schedule meetings because they assume no one reads anything they send them. But again, this is a different problem -- and a meeting is probably not the answer, as if you're all children attending a fire safety school assembly.
3. To set a deadline. A friend who serves on a non-profit board told me that each director had been working on a set of strategic objectives. The timeline called for this to be completed last month, but everyone seemed to have assumed that the real deadline was the fourth quarter meeting in December. We're all busy these days. Meetings become a way to ensure things get done. But again, this is a cultural problem, and you can set deadlines that are real deadlines without getting everyone in the same room.
4. Because roles are unclear. Does it really require six people to approve a new contract? If so, why? Even getting this down to, say, four people, would free up a lot of resources in your organization.
So why should a meeting happen? The best reason is that you need to make a decision, and everyone in the room is critical to reaching that decision. Ideally, the benefit of any decision reached will be greater than the cost of the time of the people there. If you can't say that, then maybe that meeting didn't need to happen.
Popular on MoneyWatch
- Amy's Baking Company: Post-meltdown PR campaign
- How to stop the mediocrity pandemic
- Reverse cell phone lookup service is free and simple
- Reports: Yahoo to acquire Tumblr for $1.1B
- 4 Things Not to Buy at Costco
- Top 10 professional life coaching myths
- 5 Things You Should Buy at Costco
- 12 great college graduation gift ideas