Meetings are a necessary part of corporate life. People need to get together in order to give and receive updates, make decisions, move projects on. But we all know how many (wo)man hours are wasted unnecessarily in the internally-focused, meeting-driven culture that seems to get worse the larger a company becomes. As Noah Brier describes, the slow growth and normalisation of this behaviour happens in every organisation:
'In the case of meetings what starts as a one-off meeting to discuss something, becomes a weekly meeting for 15 minutes, eventually with more people involved, and eventually you have 15 people spending an hour together without any real sense for what they’re talking about or why.'
Add in a layer of creeping formalisation which manifests in the form of ever more convoluted pre-prepared reports which eventually create a mountain of pre-meeting reading and you have created a serious brake on agility and actually getting things done.
Much of this creeping culture seems to go unchallenged and be accepted as an unwanted but inevitable part of corporate life, but I think we need to actively fight against it. Which is why I really like Percolate's six rules for meetings:
The questioning about whether you need a meeting at all should always happen. Setting a time default that pushes teams to make decisions or to update quickly resets the norms away from the one hour blocks of time that typically characterise the manager's schedule (and meetings have a habit of growing to fit the time allocated even if that is not needed). Clarity about objectives and outputs seems obvious but can often slip. And screens distract from the task at hand. Sensible, but important.