Do Meetings “Work”?

From a former co-worker would come the frequent complaint, “Meetings don’t work.” It was a small-ish company, that grew while I was there from under twenty employees to over fifty. What bothered me the most about this complaint of my co-worker’s, apart from that it seemed to issue forth usually when what was being proposed was something that he didn’t want to do, was that he was a senior manager.

To my mind, a manager, in any capacity and in any department, should never shy away from meetings. It’s part of the job description of a Manager. There seems to be a misconception that being in a meeting entails not doing anything creative or not contributing novel ideas.

People frequently also complain, “Today was awful. I’ve been in meetings all day,” as if to say that they couldn’t have done anything of value, or been insightful, because the responsibility of being in meetings, even if they were running the meetings themselves or were called in as important contributors, distracts them from the insights that presumably were part of their “real” or intended duties and interests at work.

There need be nothing about a meeting that precludes a manager from being effective at their job. I can understand if someone whose responsibilities are more task-oriented (say, a developer who wants to not be distracted while s/he is learning the latest programming techniques and technologies) would have to be dragged into a meeting against their wishes, but managers live to synthesize information from others’ inputs. Nothing facilitates this better than a meeting. Effective and coherent strategy decisions shouldn’t be made on-the-fly, as the result of random collisions in cubicle corridors. A meeting should be the starting point for a manager to gather the inputs they need to make their decisions, and have them discussed in a large group so that the chance of receiving incorrect information is minimized.

A “day full of meetings” isn’t one where a manager has no time for introspection. There are gaps between meetings, and people show up late. Wireless access is something most employees of technology companies can take for granted now. Each meeting is an opportunity for a good manager to channel resources into the right projects, to stay up-to-date on what’s happening “in the trenches,” so to speak, and make the right calls to action that need to be communicated in the next meeting.

A series of meetings can be proof that a manager is doing his/her job more effectively, not less.


4 Responses to “Do Meetings “Work”?”

  1. technobility Says:

    For us to perceive that meetings are useful they must result in progress. People must see that decisions are being made, agendas are being followed, action plans are bing assigned and tracked.

    There’s nothing wrong with being in meetings all day IF, and ONLY IF, they are obviously moving us forward.

    Meetings aren’t something for managers to avoid, they’re the way managers get stuff done.

  2. eric Says:

    Hello. I am contacting political bloggers around the country since I am one as well. I hope this email is not an intrusion.

    I have been in management for years, and being in a meeting to me means things are not getting done. Yes, it can be an excuse to have a nice lunch, but in general meetings are accurately described by Dilbert. The only thing worse than being in a meeting is leading one.

    If you are open to doing a link exchange, I get some pretty decent traffic.

    Thank you.

    eric aka

    Also, if you are interested, I am # 5 in the country at the bloggers choice awards in the political category.

  3. ClapSo Says:

    I have never been a fan of formal meetings. I prefer to meet with others involved on a project with me on an ongoing basis. This makes it possible to make decisions on the fly, based on the most current data available.

    The only time formal meetings are worth the trouble is when members of working groups and not located close enough to meet informally and regularly.

    These days with electronic “meetings” possible, even people that don’t work in the same city can “meet” on a daily basis…

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  4. technobility Says:

    We’ve been meeting for tens of thousands of years. The original ‘meet’ relates to a hunt. It’s used to plan future actions.

    If the meetings you’re attending are not perceived as being useful, then they’re being run wrong.

    There’s nothing inherent in ‘meetings’ that make them a waste of our time. A good meeting is the only way to co-ordinate the actions of a team. And, there’s no reason, none at all (except for incompetence), for any meeting to fail.

    Meetings aren’t difficult to run, they do however require some basic skills.

    Enjoy the day.

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