It might seem strange that a website dedicated to sharing management techniques and that has a considerable amount of material explaining how to run, facilitate or just cope with meetings could suggest such management heresy.

The truth is that 75% of all meetings across all sectors are a waste of time.

Why? Because they have become fixed points in the corporate diary that consume productive time; research suggests 65% of it.

Attempts have been made to put some sense of urgency into the meeting. Having everyone stand up at cocktail style podiums was one method.
No tea, coffee and biscuits was another, that was also cost saving. But the nature of the beast had not changed.

If you want to be remined of the absurdity of the working environment look no further than Dilbert…

Face to face meetings were the notional glue of corporate life in both the private and public sector. Get a coffee possibly a sandwich, turn up late – well nothing happens for the first five minutes has been seen as a welcome break to working. A social catch up with colleagues, informal networking.

There was a time that holding a remotes conference call by phone, then video and finally via the internet did inject a sense of time and money. Service providers charged by the minute, it was expensive. Plus a poor signal with users fixed to their deskbound PC encouraged all to get the call over.

However, some fundamentals remained – poor management, lack of preparation by the chair and speakers,
few people reading the minutes before the session.

First there was Skype, WeChat, WhatsApp and many other virtual meeting systems. Some better than others. Some aimed at the education market, others for the work environment. Then along came Zoom and the corporate call became democratized. We all know how to use these tools. The non-enterprise versions are free even if we are limited to 40 minutes.

But as we watch the growth of the home worker, the virtual office, the relative ease by which Zoom calls are initiated, screens are shared and sidebar chats have become common place old habits are creeping back. Some even worse than before.

As they sign in via the iPad or phone, what are the people with their video switched off actually doing?

The breakout room has become the latest symbol of a dysfunctional virtual working environment. They have become the virtual gossip corner as participants debate who might facilitate. A false politeness, possibly exacerbated by the fact that the team have never met face to face. Another 20 minutes wasted – get another coffee?

The solution:

Read what the Harvard Business Review has to say on the matter in Stop the Meeting Madness

‘Many executives feel overwhelmed by meetings, and no wonder:
On average, they spend nearly 23 hours a week in them, up from less than 10 hours in the 1960s.
What’s more, the meetings are often poorly timed, badly run, or both.’

You could start by cancelling all meetings for a month and suggest everyone thinks about other techniques for collaborative working. What meetings were really missed or essential?

Use one of the many shared / collaborative document management tools to work up a paper, report etc.
Agree an editorial protocol and don’t be precious about the material.

Then adopt the guidance for managing meetings in the Leadership Toolbox.

Your colleagues will thank you.