too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed

When I used to earn my living as a corporate employee, I would react to the too many meetings syndrome by asking if there was a vaccine against meetingitis, the virus whose vector is e-calendaring. I also remember when visiting Intel, there was a brief list on a wall in each conference room, a leftover from Andy Grove, reminding employees to keep meetings on topic, short, and with deliverables associated to individuals at the end.

Here's a set of recommendations from Reid Hastie, professor at the University of Chicago, who contends that “every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.”
  • Whoever calls a meeting should be explicit about its objectives. This means specifying tangible goals and assigning responsibility for creating, summarizing and reporting on them. Ask yourself this question: Specifically, what do we want accomplished when we walk out of the room?
  • Everyone should think carefully about the opportunity costs of a meeting: How many participants are really needed? (Almost all business teams and committees are too big.) How long should the meeting last? Set a definite ending time. Anyone who doubts that the meeting is necessary, or thinks it’s too long, should speak up.
  • After productive or unproductive meetings, assign credit or blame to the person in charge. Then, if people have track records of leading ineffective meetings, don’t let them lead future sessions. When their expertise is essential, make them subordinate to an effective meeting leader.
Happy Meetings!

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