Can We Meet To Discsuss Why Meetings Are Bad?

from the shocking dept

We recently wrote about the detrimental effect of interruptions on a workday, and now Slashdot points us to some research on the negative effects of meetings. For most people, this probably sounds intuitively correct. People are always complaining about the number of meetings they attend, as most aren’t particularly helpful. Many are complete wastes of time, often designed more to make it appear like something is being done or some decision is being made, when the reality is that someone is trying to avoid getting something done or making an important decision. Of course, the article doesn’t break down the different types of meetings, but one rule of thumb I’ve heard is that the more “all hands meetings” a company has, the more likely it’s in trouble. If you have an all hands meeting every day (and I once worked at a company that did — and they even claimed it was mandatory), then you know it’s time to look for an escape route.

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Comments on “Can We Meet To Discsuss Why Meetings Are Bad?”

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Howard (user link) says:

The magic number

There was an interesting observation in Heinlein’s SF novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, namely, the magic number for interpersonal cooperative efforts is 3. If you want something done, assign it to a group of 3 people who are in a tightly-knit team. If you want to stall something essentially forever, assign it to a committee of 50 people.

I have personally noticed that any time a meeting accomplishes anything, it is because of the contributions of at most 3 or 4 people.

The Celtic Fiddler

Xanthir says:

Mandatory meetings

Occasionally “all-hands” meetings are good. My company’s new software product is currently in the beta phase, and so we have a meeting every day with the top of management, developers, QA, and techsupport. (About 8 people, usually)

In it, we run though all the issues that techsupport reported for the day, and recap any progress made by development. It lets everyone stay ‘in the know’ about what’s happening within all the departments, and allows us to quickly assign responsibilities for the day.

Of course, we don’t sit around and bullshit. We have a specific meeting structure that allows us to go through all the information that we need as quickly as possible.

J says:

Re: Mandatory meetings

Xanthir has it right. Large meetings can be effective if they are kept tight and on track, esp. status meetings. We have the same type of daily meeting (only for the next few weeks) and everyone hits the mark and gets the hell out.
Mousky is wrong. You can have a manager at the meeting and be effective. More important is that the meeting have a very defined purpose and clear outcomes and goals. We had some planning meetings for a project and the meetings had 3 devs and a mgr. We kept our eye on the goal and worked through the issues in tight fashion.
Beware meetings that are called to “feel things out” and talk about strategies and issues. Those meetings beget lots more meetings and time wasted.

Tyshaun says:

Re: Re: Mandatory meetings

I think I gotta disagree with you on this. I think Xanthirs meetings were effective because he said they were about 8 people or so, not really a large meeting in the sense of the word (especially for an all hands meetings). Normally, I think most people think of “large” meetings as having like 10 or more people, which I find isn’t really a meeting but moreso an opportunity for the highest ranking person to lecture.
I agree with Mousky, to a point. I think that his characterisation can definately be made about “middle managers” because their in the unique position of having to produce results from the group yet not having sufficient powers/privileges most times to get the ball rolling (in essence they have to get permission form their boss, etc, etc, and by the time the process is through the momentum and energy of the team is sucked dry).
My solution to this whole mess. Less middle managers, they’re just insulation between the guys with the power and the guys that do the work. I see nothing wrong with directors and VPs talking directly to engineers/developers/whatever standard workers are. That way, the guys who make decisions are getting accurate feedback from the guys that make the products.
Also, planned meetings don’t seem to bother people. If you have a biweekly staff meeting, it’s a known thing. I think that unplanned for meetings cause lots of stress.
Just a thought.

GC says:

Re: Re: Re: Mandatory meetings

Sorry Tyshuan,
but J is fairly spot on.

His point is not about what is a person’s role at the company, but rather that succesful meetings encompass ALL attendees of the meeting to realize that the meeting has a “very defined purpose and clear outcomes and goals” and that “they are kept tight and on track”.

Following J’s point to it’s logical conclusion; the inclusion of a manager(s) [Project Manager, Line Manager, Middle Manager, Senior Manager, Director, or VP, etc] is dependent upon the purpose, goal, and neccessary outcome of the particular meeting(s).

J further emphasizes his point by suggesting readers stay away meetings that have no definable goal or outcome, ie the proverbial fuzzy “feel things out” meeting.

You and Xanthris need to grow up. Oh and just so you know; although I have respectfully turned down several management positions over the years, I am not a manager. I am a software developer.

Tim (user link) says:

No Subject Given

> Xanthir has it right. Large meetings can be effective if they are kept tight and on track, esp. status meetings.

Yeah, they can, right up to the point where in departments they emphasize the role of the “team” and then at the big all-company bash wasting a weekend of your life in a Miami hotel, the CEO singles-out a single employee and says “well done, have 1500 stock options”. I remember it well, and I remember thinking `smarmy [expletive]’ too.

Needless to say that’s no longer my current job. 😛

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