Getting Real: Meetings Are Toxic

Displayed below is an extraction called “Getting Real: Meetings Are Toxic – from 37 Signals on the efficiency (inefficiency) of meetings:

Don’t have meetings

Do you really need a meeting? Meetings usually arise when a concept isn’t clear enough. Instead of resorting to a meeting, try to simplify the concept so you can discuss it quickly via email or im or Campfire. The goal is to avoid meetings. Every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead.

There’s nothing more toxic to productivity than a meeting. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • They break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow
  • They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design)
  • They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute
  • They often contain at least one moron that inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense
  • They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow
  • They frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about
  • They require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway

For those times when you absolutely must have a meeting (this should be a rare event), stick to these simple rules:

  • Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
  • Invite as few people as possible.
  • Never have a meeting without a clear agenda.

Have fewer meetings

There are too many meetings. Push back on meetings that do not make sense or are unproductive. Only book a meeting when you have an important business issue to discuss and you want or need input, approval, or agreement. Even then, resist the urge to invite everyone and their brother — don’t waste people’s time unnecessarily.

—Lisa Haneberg, author (from Don’t Let Meetings Rule!)

Break it Down

As projects grow, adding people has a diminishing return. One of the most interesting reasons is the increased number of communications channels. Two people can only talk to each other; there’s only a single comm path. Three workers have three communications paths; 4 have 6. In fact, the growth of links is exponential…Pretty soon memos and meetings eat up the entire work day.

The solution is clear: break teams into smaller, autonomous and independent units to reduce these communications links.

Similarly, cut programs into smaller units. Since a large part of the problem stems from dependencies (global variables, data passed between functions, shared hardware, etc.), find a way to partition the program to eliminate — or minimize — the dependencies between units.

The Ganssle Group (from Keep It Small) ” – 37 Signals

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