The Obsession with Meetings

By Bob Morrell on June 22, 2021

Our most popular podcast is ‘Dissecting the Obsession with Meetings’. We look at the way that meetings have accelerated in number up to, and then through the pandemic, to the point where the term ‘back-to-back’ is understood to mean ‘lots of meetings’, which some people talk about like it’s a badge of honour.

If you want to find out why too many meetings can be damaging, then listen to the podcast : – for the purposes of this blog I want to focus on solutions.

  1. Which regular meetings could you do without? Just because you have always done it, does not mean it is a valuable use of time. The average cost of a meeting in the UK is £338 – so if you’re not getting even that level of value back from the time you are regularly spending, it’s time to reassess the value.
  2. Which meetings could be dealt with by email? If a meeting is set to deal with a specific thing, work out how it could be done by email. Look at the workflow involved and judge the value of the outcome against the time spent.
  3. When you organise a meeting, do you invite people who are not affected by the items on the agenda? Are they unlikely to contribute to the discussion? If the answer is ‘yes’ to these then please stop wasting their time by thinking you’re being inclusive when you’re actually being annoying!
  4. Do you organise meetings with no agenda and call them a ‘catch up’ or a ‘one to one’ or a ‘chat’? What value do they contribute? How much time do they take? Is that you, being a ‘manager’? There are other options to these informal meetings like limiting them to 15 minutes if you insist on having them – or just have them less regularly.
  5. Do you call meetings to deal with problems? If you do then another option is to let go of the more traditional solutions. A worthwhile meeting, when confronted with a challenge, is to make sure the agenda includes the heading ‘what new or better ways can we use to deal with this problem?’ Innovation will mean the problem could be dealt with for the long term which would mean fewer meetings.
  6. Do you finish meetings with no decision being taken? Leaving things up in the air for longer? One strategy is to agree that meetings don’t end until a decision is taken. This could mean longer meetings, but more decisions and that will mean less meetings overall.
  7. Do you call them meetings? Why not put them in the diary as the actual purpose of the meeting? A Presentation. A Negotiation. A pitch. An interview. A reunion. A selection. A planning discussion. Agreeing a Decision about…

These are just a few ideas to help – the biggest note to make is around ego. Sometimes we have meetings to make us ‘look busy’. When do we block out the diary so it says, ‘doing work’? Our work has to fit in around the meetings – and what is more important?

The time has come to re-plan how you run your time at work, do less meetings and make sure the ones you have are as effective as possible.