By Jane Sunley, best-selling business author and Chairman + Founder of Purple Cubed
According to a survey by Office Broker, the average office worker spends two fifths of the working week in meetings! It’s time to question whether meetings are the best use of people’s valuable time.
Meetings are a traditional part of work culture because, before the advent of technology as we know it, that was pretty much the only way to exchange information. Yet people still persist with a regime of regular get-togethers because they believe it’s good for communication. And of course there are occasions when a meeting is required so I’m not for binning them altogether. However, I’d argue that in the 21st Century, since we have other ways of communicating, many meetings are counter-productive.
At Purple Cubed we decided to experiment with a ‘meetings amnesty’ where all regular meetings (with the exception of career and developmental ones) were taken out of everyone’s calendars and if, having examined ‘the whys’, anyone felt they needed a meeting then they could call one. After a month of this we adopted it permanently. People found that their time was so much more productive and felt more trusted and empowered. This is not about abdication and leaving people in isolation to get on with things; support is still available and dialogue encouraged. There’s more general interaction around the office. The meetings that do happen are spontaneous, short and outcome focused, because no one ‘put an hour in the diary’ to have them. Perhaps controversially, we also stopped our board meetings. We have a clear strategy with clear report-back, so the feeling is that people would rather get on with delivering than debating… Again, any director can call a board meeting if they feel they need one. To date no one has!
Lack of meetings also helps combat group-think (which occurs within a group where the desire for harmony or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome). Instead people use their own brains to find good outcomes. That in itself is a reason to consider the meetings amnesty…