Stop the meeting madness

by | Jul 10, 2017 | Collaboration, Digital workplace, Information Management

Earlier this year I published Working Together, a report which set out my view that improving the way that meetings are managed will have a significantly greater impact on collaborative working than any amount of technology. It came as some relief that research undertaken by Professor Leslie Perlow  Harvard Business School) and her colleagues comes to the same conclusion. Professor Perlow’s article “Stop the Meeting Madness” in the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review presents some depressing statistics.

  • 65% of managers said that meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and ineffective
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring teams closer together

Some of the reasons for this are that even when the number of meetings is constrained they are run so poorly that there is no gain in efficiency compared to having more better organised meetings. However there is a trade off between having more meetings and eating in to the productive time of participants. Then there are the meetings that are too frequent, poorly timed and badly run, so everyone looses. This third category accounts for the situation in 54%  of the organisations surveyed in the course of the research.

The approach suggested in the paper is to collect information from participants in a structured way and take action on the outcomes. The list of survey questions proposed cover

  • Taking everyone’s emotional pulse
  • Tallying the hours spend in meetings
  • Considering the balance between the group and individual work time
  • Assessing the impact of meetings on work quality
  • Identifying good practice from successful meetings that can be applied across the organisation

In my opinion unless the meetings are effective in an organisation there is no point in trying to measure metrics such as ‘collaboration adoption’ and ‘propensity to collaborate’ because any nominal improvements arising from introducing one or more collaboration technologies will be masked by the poor performance of meetings.

Introducing more technology takes capital investment and time. You can start making meetings more effective with the ones you will be attending tomorrow. A potentially massive return for zero investment. Go for it!

Martin White