berkus_ventures_300ppi copy


How to avoid “death by meeting.”

Imagine yourself with a calendar requiring you to be in six meetings in a day.  Day after day.  How long would it take to induce you to rethink your use of time – and that of the others sitting (or standing) beside you?  More important, how long would it take to realize death-by-meetingthat there is something wrong with the enterprise when it takes constant meetings to get the job done?

Slowly in many cases.  And expensively.

The best performers and managers dislike meetings and show their disdain by being abrupt or at the opposite end, distracted.  Often the most attentive ones involved in constant meetings are those who feel protected, shielded from measurement of personal performance, or at times less self–motivated to perform.

And the cost to the company of those meetings?  Staggering, if you take into account the lost production time of those present, not just the salary cost.

[Email readers, continue here…] And yet, there are times when co–ordination between people and groups requires a meeting, whether in person or over digital channels.  So let’s examine ways to make meetings more efficient – those that are actually required.

The concept of a scrum is a good one to use in many cases of immediate need to coordinate a working group.  Attendees stand rather than sit, reinforcing the urgency and need for a short meeting.  Individuals address issues that are blocking them from completing their tasks, requesting help from the others in removing the blockage.  Scrums are effective and should be short, scheduled, and supervised.

Board meetings are often killers.  Hardeners of the arteries of progress.  Most devolve into a series of reports from each constituency, spewing facts that could have been printed and passed to the board ahead of time.  Board meetings should revolve around issues, not progress.  Reviewing sales account by account is not an effective use of a board’s collective time.  Attacking critical issues after providing background information and perhaps a list of alternatives is a good use of board time.

And if there is little to discuss, perhaps the wisest decision of all is to just cancel the meeting and bank the time saved for more critical use.  Certainly, most of us would applaud the decision to return a bit of lost time to its rightful owners.  And to avoid the occasional (slow) death by meeting, so common in companies today.

(Cartoon courtesy of LaughChat.)

  • Dave, thank you very much for this. I strongly wish that you had written it several years ago ….. as I lived through this for a few years at a former Fortune top 30 global company. All top executives should pay heed to your article!

    As a senior VP of this company I attended, on average, 3 – 6 meetings a day. After I while I just brought a sketch pad, as did 90% of the other participants. I became so bored that I resigned, as did most of the other meeting participants. Within 2 years this very old, long established company was defunct. Due to a lack of leadership, who were all attending meetings.

    Your article really hit home with me. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up for
Dave's weekly emails

Most Recent Posts