Meetings are, for most of you, the organizational equivalent of the national debt. They consume too much of your resources and are low yield, and yet making a change can always wait until tomorrow.
I’ve seen incredibly talented organizations working at a fraction of their potential because of their Abilene Paradox meeting habits. If there was ever a situation that called for a broad commitment to a radical change, this is it.
So, here’s mine. It is just three items. That should be easy, right?
- Don’t have any more “meetings.” No gathering of people will happen under that label. From this point foward, any gathering of people will be labeled for the specific outcome it expects to produce. This means that even the regular gathering of a department staff for the purpose of tribal check in, is not allowed to be a “staff meeting.” Nor is it a “communications exchange” because that’s an activity label, not an outcome label.
- Set an objective for the gathering, and a maximum time limit. Everyone’s shared goal is to meet the objective and get out of there as soon as possible. People will start to develop a sense of disappointment when a gathering with a max limit of 45 minutes actually takes 45 minutes.
- Everyone states their contribution to the desired outcome at the beginning of the gathering. Everyone is responsible for challenging any stated contribution that sounds weak.
No one is allowed to come just to listen or to fill in their boss on what happened. In addition to being a terrible productivity model, that sets up post-gathering politicking when people who weren’t there get second-hand information and then try to intervene.
If you think that’s an inadequate cure, I dare you to implement those three things well for a few months, no exceptions. If your organization pulls that off and still suffers from the same or similar problems that you have now, I’ll buy you dinner at my favorite restaurant in my hometown of Washington, DC, you can fill me in, and we’ll rewrite this blog post together.