It felt great at first. Having a wide-open calendar and knowing that random managers can’t pull you into a waste of time meeting seems like a dream come true. However, we quickly learned that removing meetings doesn’t removed the need for communication.
Instead of scheduled meetings, our Slack channels turned into never ending pseudo-meetings. Instead of the well-defined start times of a meeting and the implicit expectation that meeting participants come prepared with an agenda and material to discuss, we had a spontaneous free-for-all in Slack. People could, and would, start important team discussions in Slack at random times all day long. “@here” started to feel no different than a meeting, except it was unpredictable, you couldn’t prepare for it, and it would certainly disrupt your concentration.
The other unintended side effect was that people were still scheduling secret meetings. They just had to be quiet about it because technically we weren’t supposed to do it. The teams with regularly scheduled meetings were more cohesive, less disrupted, and significantly less stressed than those who tried to handle everything in the asynchronous “always on, always connected” style.
So yes, excessive, unnecessary, or poorly-run meetings are bad. But I never thought I’d miss properly run meetings as much as I did when they were removed completely from our communication toolbox. Use the right tool for the right job and enforce good meeting discipline.
We don't often celebrate making things harder to do, but adding friction to something that's happening too often can help bring it back into balance. That's especially true for things with large "multipliers". An unscripted meeting might take one hour for the person calling it, but eat 10 hours of other people's time (plus interrupt them). Adding an hour of prep and summary for the caller lowers that ratio a bit so everyone has a more similar view of the meeting.
That's rarely grounds to make things harder with no benefit, but meeting prep has very solid benefits. Even in terms of time wasted, a clear agenda keeps meetings from dragging on, and routing minutes/summary after the fact avoids repeating discussions or inviting people who only need to listen.
Sometimes friction creates abrasion and waste. Sometimes it creates the traction necessary to actually move forward without sliding all over the place like a hot mess.
I'm working on some of our internal screens at work and part of this is me really trying to get things right and easy for everyone. However, yeah, there _are_ things that should be hard to impossible to do because they shouldn't be doing them and we've entered the realm of needing to coordinate with people and raise flags that something errored along the way.
At first people thought of it in terms of the needless waist friction that had become so prevelant, but soon came to realize that it was a good friction telling them they were off the beaten path, allowing them to hand stuff over to their managers and get problems taken care of before causing problems for customers, wasting customer services time as well as causing us to expend more resources to correct the mistake.
Like you said, friction in just the right places allows good things to happen.
Callers tend to have higher salary, but usually way less than the people count multiplier.
(There have been some really interesting displays of this, like Robot 9k avoiding chat spam, or Kingdom of Loathing's 3-question "test" for joining global chat.)
Print fiction stories are higher average quality than web-published or fan-fiction, because they costs money to produce. Nobody prints and binds 500 words of unfinished, unedited rambling, but they certainly put it on AO3. But it turns out there's a lot of stuff that's interesting and valuable, yet too niche or awkwardly sized to justify printing.
So I guess there are two questions. First, does the barrier to entry improve the overall quality of the thing, or just weed out the weakest examples? Charging anyone who calls a meeting $10 would avoid some stupid meetings, but requiring an agenda can also improve worthwhile meetings. Second, are the marginal examples worth having? For a short story in a database, sure. For a five person meeting? Definitely not.
A lot of people do. They just don’t reach you (vs internet distribution).
As a positive incentive, a countering "attending" pool, also budgetable. Meetings with strong appeal would be compensated from that.
Not sure what to do with the Imaginary Meeting Points at the end of the year, though possibly use it as the basis of some sort of merit award or bonus.
For actually tracking Meeting Points, one option might be to make them a project metric? As in: "We predict our project will consume 21 Meeting Points, if we go over 25 that's a failure to be analyzed afterwards like overruning schedule or budget, if we're under 15 we're probably budgeting wrong".
I'm not saying the market/cost approach is necessarily the best or appropriate. But it's an interesting thought experiment to work through it.
Sometimes imposing arbitrary requirements (e.g., "have an agenda") is a cheaper way of effecting the same ends. Though Goodhart's Law is another pitfall.
Of course people shouldn't pay to do their work, so this must be taken from their allocated budget. If they don't have a budget they cannot invite anyone without the permission of someone who has a budget and think the meeting is a good idea.
"No agenda, no attend-ah."
We groaned every time we used it. I've used it ever since.
The one I heard was "If we don't know what the meeting is for, how will we know what we're getting out of it if we attend?"
They did a company wide training on effective meetings.
Set agendas, notes, and etc were all part of their training. It was great.
I never saw a single person do those things... not the VPs, not the CEO, nobody. I did it for my meetings as a sort of invisible act of defiance, but nobody ever read them before the meeting and most didn't know meeting invites came with anything other than the time, date, location info :(
I (dev) and my team certainly do.
To that end, I've started putting a standard caveat at the end of all my team meeting reminders on chat: Everyone is optional, but everyone who goes must have read the agenda and linked pre-reading.
First couple of times I did that, some people self-called-out as not having read the notes (after asking questions specifically addressed in the notes). After that it's been mostly good. People have thanked me for my efficient meetings, but all I did was to make people read the agenda :)
"Therapy" meetings certainly have their place, and I've personally grown a lot as a person in those. We have one (retro) every two weeks. But if most meetings in your organization are better thought of as therapy meetings... well, it's no surprise people don't do concrete things any more.
This is the biggest problem where I've seen companies try to do this. The C-level and senior management team make a big fuss about how the company is having too many pointless meetings, they need to be effective, short and have agendas... and usually you can count in hours the time before the one of the exact same senior managers has sent a 2 hour, 20-person invite titled "project catch up" with a blank body.
(You can probably generalise this to many company initiatives, not just the ones about meeting habits.)
It mostly doesn't work.
Three places I worked had tidy kitchens. None of them had these labels, but more importantly: in all three of them management would fix it if others didn't. I guess most people only see their bosses boss tidy up a couple of times before they realize everyone is supposed to do that.
People seem really busy and tell me they are too busy to plan their meeting or prepare for mine. It’s a viscous cycle.
As soon as there's more than one point on te agenda, the meeting is going to be a drag for half the participants.
(Of course that single purpose often still requires prep from the organiser and/or other participants.)
You can tell a lot about a person's professionalism by looking at their meeting invites.
I avtively refuse meetings without an agenda and a why this meeting is important. And I put a Joy in applying this on a management level too.
Don't fuck with people's time, it's the only thing we can't get back.
My agendas look like this:
(1) Two word emotional check in [Lead:Jd][budget: 5 minutes, actual: ]
(2) How did sprint one go? [Lead:Mark][budget: 7 minutes, actual: ]
(3) Should we have pizza or chinese food for lunch? [Lead:Francis][budget: 3 minutes, actual: ]
I send out the agendas in advance for anyone to PM me to add something.
Then I use a stop timer to track how many minutes were used per agenda and send it along with the minute meetings and action items post-meetings. Action items are almost always tracked some sort of issue tracker but I use different ones for different projects.
More seriously, even if standup actually were 5 minutes like it should be according to theory, no interruption takes less than half an hour to recover from and resume flow.
Jeff Sutherland who invented scrum thinks it should be 15 minutes, so according to theory they should be 15 minutes:
> The Daily Scrum is a 15-minute time-boxed event for the Development Team. The Daily Scrum is
held every day of the Sprint. At it, the Development Team plans work for the next 24 hours. This
optimizes team collaboration and performance by inspecting the work since the last Daily Scrum
and forecasting upcoming Sprint work. The Daily Scrum is held at the same time and place each
day to reduce complexity
The meeting chair (senior engineer) goes around the room and we all have the same list of items to report on each day. It helps avoid duplication of effort and also increases coordination in pursuit of objectives.
* "Effective Meeting Skills" by Marion Haynes is a short workbook from 1988. It looks dated, but the material is still relevant and a quick read. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0931961335/
* "The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance" by Steven Rogelberg. This 2019 book is great and includes useful findings from real studies of meetings. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0190689218/
This podcast interview with the author is a good introduction: https://www.gayleallen.net/cm-127-steven-rogelberg-on-making...
Amazon has a very interesting approach to meetings that I'm curious if anyone has first hand experience with, or other thoughts. For those that aren't aware - Jeff Bezos famously banned PowerPoint, and has people prepare a (max 6 page I believe) written memo for every meeting. Then there's time at the beginning of the meeting carved out for reading the memo - after which people will start talking.
I can imagine that this does a few things - it creates a barrier to actually scheduling meetings - so people don't do it as often. And, it ensures participants can have meaningful, detailed conversations.
Being the king of slack serves no purpose.
What Bezos does (if it's true) is just apply common sense (let's solve this real issue and only this one quickly by talking about it an only about it because we are the ones who can solve it and no one else) to a workplace where people are payed so much that it shouldn't even be possible to have non meaningful meetings.
But this is the kind of world we live in nowadays...
The fact that my coworkers don't seem to understand the value of keeping a distinction between async and sync communication caused me to recently turn off my Slack notifications, and it's been incredible. I'm much, much more productive than I was before, and the amount of people who actually needed a synchronous response from me was a small fraction of the pings I get (I use DnD so people can click an option to notify me if necessary).
I've started turning down meetings too, or at least gating them with a request for a specific agenda: it turns out half the time, I can point them to some docs or answer them directly without needing to interrupt my routine for half an hour+.
The difference in my productivity is truly insane, and it's come at an extremely minor cost of the teams and teammates that work with me having to be more thoughtful about what they need. (and of course, I still take plenty of meetings, since sometimes conversations need to be open-ended)
Nit: I've always heard this called synchronous, since in this style work is performed immediately, rather than queued up to wait for execution at a scheduled time.
I referred to meetings as synchronous because they acquire a lock on everyone's time, at a specifically scheduled time on their calendar.
I refer to Slack and e-mail communication as asynchronous because you're not explicitly locking other people's calendars, but those other people are expected to read and respond to the notifications all throughout the day.
If you never know when the next important "@here" conversation is going to pop up in one of your Slack channels, the only way to have a seat at the table is to be always on, always connected.
If someone sends you a message, and they’re happy to wait for a reply, then that’s asynchronous.
If someone posts an @here in a channel asking for comments before making a final decision on the spot, then that's synchronous.
Asynchronous communications must be structured fundamentally differently from synchronous ones in order to be effective. Trying to merge them into a single mechanism is a horrible mistake.
I find phonecalls less disruptive, they happen once, and the issue is addressed. If it is dragging too long, we move it to a meeting.
A chat session can continue indeterminate amount if time, keep flaring up and distracting you as different people chime in from half-afk half-paying attention standpoint.
It sounds to me like they were using Slack for discussions that should have happened on a Google Doc or ticketing system.
If people are constantly pinging you on Slack they're doing it wrong, and you need to let them know.
Edit: Bleh, I misunderstood; just discouragement of meetings. It'd still be interesting to hear the reasoning (especially if it deterred people from holding meetings in favour of Slack)
A low volume of meetings, ideally visible to all staff on company calendars, with well-documented titles & purposes before the meeting, and transcripts/recordings for later reference afterwards (especially to handle any especially controversial decisions or discussions) is what I'd consider a 'gold standard'.
There's still the potential for people to try to back-channel discussions via in-person meetings and various other means, but at least it makes transparency the default, and allows questioning the paper trail.
Also: none of this should necessarily detract from the fact that, for some people, they may psychologically benefit from what we are discussing as 'pointless meetings' and airing their voice / asserting their status.
If that's genuinely helping those people, I think there's a place for it (even if it might not be what a purpose-driven engineer or mission-driven entrepreneur might want to see at their organization).
They thought it would increase speed of execution. Instead of finding the first available calendar slot that works for everyone 3 days from now, why not just have the conversation immediately in Slack? Get answers fast and then move on.
They also wanted to avoid gathering more people than necessary for longer than required. The idea was that engineers could quickly check the "@here" message, decide if it's relevant or not, and then get back to their work.
Good intentions, but it increased the volume of notifications immensely. Taking a single day off of work meant that I had to sift through well over 100 Slack notifications when I got back to my computer. A mix of @here, @channel, my name being tagged with 10 other people, or impromptu private message meetings. I uninstalled RescueTime because it was too depressing to see a minimum of 2-3 hours per day spent in Slack. I'd gladly trade those 2 hours of Slack time for 2 (or more) hours of efficient, well-run meetings.
I completely agree. A meeting can be extremely valuable when you have clear goals, an agenda, and clear reasons why every participant is needed/needs to be there.
One tendency I see and hate is when someone calls a 1 hour meeting, finishes the (usually underbaked) agenda in half an hour, but now they feel the need to pad the remaining half hour with whatever they can dredge up. Instantly turns the meeting from "a good use of half an hour" to "a bad use of one hour".
that's a wild way to run meetings — in my current organization, finishing a meeting ahead of schedule (when appropriate) is celebrated as "giving time back".
I want one way to view code (Vim), one way to view a .jpg (feh), one way to ask quick questions (IRC), one way to quickly browse text (Lynx), one way to communicate structured messages (email)... but alas it falls apart due to the fact that we work as social creatures.
A friend of mine showed me her work slack for a company of ~100 people and no joke, they have over 20 channels for non-work purposes that are entirely random (#cupcakeparty) and are frequently contributed to with nothing valuable. Based on personal experience, I suspect that's not too unique.
Okay, what is wrong with that? My company has dozens of goofy slack channels that are full of people goofing around. I don't particularly care for them, so I don't join them. But I do get some amount of joy from the fact that others are having fun on those channels...
If you used IRC, you'd have the same kind of deal. If you just used email, you'd have goofy aliases that people created (unless you worked for some grumpy, stoogy company or the government)
Non-developers really don’t understand how bad it is to be interrupted when “in the zone”.
I am way more productive if left to check email/slack of my own accord, when an appropriate time presents itself.
Recently, having become a home worker, I’ve found that meetings are quick & to the point, and it’s anti rely because of the group video element. Makes meetings seems worthwhile and productive.
It still allows you to multitask and be in multiple meetings at once, without allowing people to start initiatives before people are prepared. Not perfect, but sounds like a step forward in a no-meeting culture.
Not really. Once you start adding specific dates around when people can discuss things, you've just reinvented meetings in a less efficient medium.
The key is proper mentoring, coaching, and expectation setting. If meetings are becoming a problem, work on coaching people how to run healthy meetings. If you just ban meetings, the same bad habits just spill over into less efficient mediums and create even more problems.
There is value in "venting" at work. A few years ago I built a software tool that pings people at the end of the week asking how their week went. Some of the quietest people in the company had the most to say when they were behind a screen. In fact, some people literally called it therapeutic. It turns out that writing things down can serve as a form of "therapy" (source: https://positivepsychology.com/writing-therapy/)
If you lead a team, I'd strongly recommend you have a feedback mechanism like this in place, but a meeting is not the right medium. It's just a place for the extroverts to complain.
If you do hold a meeting for this stuff, a 1-1 is probably the best way to surface a similar level of information.
Some might just "complain", but others feel safer being vocal in a group of people.
You mention understanding that some of the quietest people have the most to say behind a screen, well, I imagine there is a non-insignificant group of people who feel much safer talking it out within a group where there isn't a written record and they can judge the crowd's reaction immediately.
I wouldn't consider myself anywhere close to an extrovert and I would consider myself more candid in spoken communications at work, even when my whole team is present.
Just my 2 cents.
Its that time of year again were everyone gets ready for holiday sales blitz. Marketing teams the world over keep talking about how they are going to drive revenue.
After you factor in overtime, technology support, shipping delays and the knock on effects of stress (look at deployments, LOC produced, and so on in Jan and Feb) you quickly see that the hit on the bottom line is bigger than anyone ever thought of (and more so this season).
You don't have to be an extrovert to build a chart and a graph of this (and the other phenomena) that points out reality, and its impact. It tends to temper people singing their own praises (what extroverts are really good at) without having the data to back it up.
The message from this, go find the other introverts, find out what they do, and how it matters to you. Corporations are a lot like spider webs, tug on one thread and the whole thing vibrates, it is just a question of how much and where. Your fellow introverts are the keys to figuring out where, and if they are meaningful.
I'd much rather complete an async update and then follow-up with an in-person meeting to talk about the things that were documented beforehand.
It's a much more efficient approach and you get better insights too.
This is very much me. I am an introvert, and despite being a team lead, will get run over by louder more assertive folks. I'm learning to stick up for myself (only been a lead for 2 months) but it's a long road.
With an email or chat, I can reformulate what I mean to say multiple times. Refine my message and make it clearer and cite sources. I can also take the time to examine my emotions and motivations in creating the email, and sometimes just discard a whole email if I've managed to work through something myself.
Unfortunately for people like me, extroverts tend to be most visible so their preferred way of doing things, talking in meetings, is how a lot of business seems to be conducted.
Here is what I did (suggested by a boss who was magic with meeting effectiveness), YMMV:
- Come to meetings with a short list of decisions to be made or expected contributions
- Bring suggested resolutions if I owned the meeting / was primary technical resource / team lead and had some to suggest -- and communicate that these are the default in absence of consensus or buy-in
- Put discussion time allotted stacked to each decision to be made (moderately flexible)
- Always end meetings early if no more content is to be discussed
Meeting agendas can be powerful.
Managers are not permitted at these meetings, because they should be "safe."
I've never seen "managers aren't permitted", but I suppose it depends on the level of manager - as long as everyone present got their hands relatively dirty on the project, things seem to go well.
In particular, for the get-the-feelings activities, the Retromat has a number of good items in the "set the stage" and "gather data" categories. E.g., Weather Report is good for a quick feeling survey: https://retromat.org/en/?id=2
Or you can do Satisfaction Histogram or Amazon Review to collect reactions to specific topics: https://retromat.org/en/?id=87 and https://retromat.org/en/?id=18
Nordic cultures may seem very similar, but their organizational cultures are different even within the same company. Others are often frustrated about Swedes and their endless meetings. Finns in the meeting are 'OK. lets do this.' and Swedes reply 'But Jan-Erik has not shared his point of view yet.'
What you're feeling is the difference between a collectivist leadership culture and an individualist leadership culture. Collectivist cultures value leaders who generate power through _maintaining relationships_, whereas individualist leaders prioritise leadership via _authority_. Think of it as accruing power in the edges vs the nodes of the social graph.
Fun fact: countries whose leader cultures are more individualist (e.g. America) are MUCH more likely to have whole populations who agree highly with "economic growth is important above all else", whereas collectivist leader nations (e.g., Taiwan, Finland) have a general populace who agree less highly with that phrase, but MORE highly with "ecological sustainability and environmental stewardship are important".
So while correlation doesn't prove causation, it may be the case that American-style individualist leadership culture is in opposition to our shared goals of non extinction :) but that's maybe a leap.
The whole study is really rad. Oh, and more bonus: collectivist leadership style correlates highly with feminine leadership style (another axes of Hofstede study)
EDIT: a-ha! Found the source:
Here's the source data updated.
How does that work ? do people get a say regardless of their status ? do good ideas really rise up ?
Or does it just become a different type of political game ?
I was recently working on an infrastructure deployment with a team in Sweden and those of us from the US could not understand why everything took a commitee to do anything outside the norm.
Like, no individual would just do a task or make a command decision unless a broader team was engaged.
The work got done but, yeesh.
Men meet together for many reasons in the course of business. They need to instruct or persuade each other. They must agree on a course of action. They find thinking in public more productive or less painful than thinking in private. But there are at least as many reasons for meetings to transact no business. Meetings are held because men seek companionship or, at a minimum, wish to escape the tedium of solitary duties. They yearn for the prestige which accrues to the man who presides of meetings, and this leads them to convoke assemblages over which they can preside. Finally, there is the meeting which is called not because there is business to be done, but because it is necessary to create the impression that business is being done. Such meetings are more than a substitute for action. They are widely regarded as action.
-- John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash, 1929, pp 138-139.
The world is getting silly. Not because of studies like this. But because people actually agree with obvious bullshit like this. I feel like I'm taking damn crazy pills.
Very few of the meetings are about “deciding things”, rather they are about aligning views. As a manager I see my role as setting up meetings so that the most qualified peoples views properly influences the right stake holders. When everyone aligns on what problem to solve and how to solve it there are generally no need to take any decisions, since work gets efficiently done and few issues pops up that are not automatically solved by way of previously achieved alignment.
While using this strategy, what generally drives more meetings are:
1) Managers and other power holders that cares more about their importance and status than the work.
2) The parts of the staff that are dissatisfied and don’t like their work. In many of these cases, they have been obviously neglected/abused by management before and don’t feel trust in the organization.
Basically you should have a meeting if:
* It can't be solved by collaborating outside a meeting
* Everyone is needed to participate
* The group has authority to act
* There is a clear agenda and goals
* Someone can be the facilitator
I have found that if a meeting has all those elements than a lot can get done very quickly, rather than having ideas bounce around email or slack for weeks!
Add to that the fact that 90% of the company are incapable of being on time to those meetings, and you can probably guess as to one of the reasons I'm moving on to another company. The meetings are usually also at short notice and the person who requests it will universally be late to their own meeting.
I see excessive meetings and calls as a failure of written communication skills. The people I see organising the most meetings are also those who are least adept at understanding writing, and the worst at communicating via it themselves. There's definitely an art to being a good written communicator, and maybe there should be more emphasis placed on it when recruiting in tech roles.
A project I was on earlier in the year was full on Agile, with constant meetings - daily standups, weekly retrospectives, weekly scrum-of-scrums, weekly reviews/demos, bi-weekly product backlog refinements, weekly story refinements, weekly product backlog planning, weekly sprint planning, frequent meetings about git branching strategies and near daily "way of working" meetings. And of course there were some relatively meaningful small meetings closely related to actual development work.
Everyone was losing the will to live, including myself - there simply wasn't enough time to actually work!
I had a word with the project manager, and with a totally casual manner he said: "OK, let's have a meeting with the whole team to discuss it".
So, it's meant to be an amusing anecdote on HN; I haven't told the entire story of the project :) The PM had heard this from several other team members alread, several times. The difference is I was tech lead, so he listened a bit more to me, and I was also quite adamant this time (I'd tried to tell him more politely numerous times).
> And it doesn't seem like any one person should be attending all of these meetings
Bingo, this was the biggest problem - the project manager in particular was bad for telling irrelevant people to join meetings.
If I ran my own company, I would ban almost all meetings and limit the most crucial ones to 15 minutes tops. And while my company might fail due to a misplaced sense of schadenfreude, it’s a risk I’m willing to take to get experimental verification of whether meetings are actually as valuable as everyone claims they are.
If you don’t want to work with other people, move out into the woods.
Perhaps it helps people who have pointless jobs that create no value?
There is nothing better than a day with nicely spaced meetings
My current Project on every second wednesday:
10:00-10:30 Daily Standup
11:00-12:00 Architect Jour Fix
13:00-14:00 Sprint Retro
15:00-16:00 Sprint Planning
Most of the gaps have a reason (conflicting meetings, etc)
We use those gaps to "transfer knowledge". That basically means we sit in the cafeteria chatting about work or non-work relatet stuff, planning our weekends, etc.
sure. Its better this way. otherwise i would have those meetings scattered across a complete week.
and tbh, days like this come every two weeks. its not every day. most days its 15min daily standup in the morning and sometimes a refinement of 30m.
>...when do you actually code??
i come in at around 7-7:30, code until ~10, go home after the last meeting.
However, I think your intent was to suggest it was a great day because no "real work" was done.
Too short. An hour or bust. Actually, I am quite serious about. It's great to have time, go out and eat - business lunch in the area are decent to put it mildly.
I often shoo away people with "this is a human right"
Also perspective: staying overnight, while uncommon, to address production issues doesn't translate, either.
I've seen stand-up, retro, and planning completed in 30 minutes. We used the extra hour and 45 minutes for productivity. On cadence days we get half the day back.
It helps to remember that I'm paid the same to attend a meeting as to do work.
Without efficient ways of doing things managers want more people doing things like them. Like the traffic problem doesn't get better with more lanes.
Uncosted inputs will be used to the limits of tolerance of costed inputs.
Time is a near-universal uncosted input, at least in internal allocation.
There are a number of people that kind of enjoy it as a form of socializing. That obviously doesn't apply to overly long, poorly structured meetings that waste time. But a sizeable (mostly) silent group of people appreciate reasonably scheduled and structured meetings in the way described in this article. To each their own.
Having the 4x mission critical managers sitting in a cluster & overhearing each other's conversations did wonders for keeping everyone on the same wavelength - without meetings.
Was a bit of an eye opener how powerful that can be. 40 man team, insane yearly sprint-like pressure for 2.5 months solid. Everything continuously on fire basically...but it's fine as long as the center holds. Also had an interesting effect on team morale - they're a lot happier to charge into battle if they're confident leadership is unified.
Rather, they have to endure demands, complaints and display of status from management - which is the opposite of therapy.
One of the reasons of pointless meeting is to keep busy and appear busy - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs
"Academics from the University of Malmo in Sweden say meetings provide an outlet for people at work to show off their status or to express frustration."
But yep, that might not be ideal for a participant who would prefer to be making progress on something else. I've seen a bunch of tech companies start to suggest to employees that they can and should leave meetings if they don't feel like their presence is important.
"outlet for management" sounds quite different.
I think a better framing for meetings is not by looking at the battle, but the war. Individually, yeah it can suck. But the goal is to ensure a large amount of individuals march in the same direction, toward the same goal, and are progressing the business forward. Some amount of work is needed for that.
Let's optimize for maximizing that impact, not how "good" the process feels.
One other thing that can help a lot is to have structured calls and ways for people to flag things for mandatory discussion. If I am on a call that starts going sideways, having some established process where I can say something like "Hey guys, can we take a look at <some bucket of flagged items>?" can very quickly right the ship. What this does is effectively remind everyone that we are here to do a job with certain degree of professionalism and diligence. Everyone also has a vested interest in getting to the bucket of review items, because these are usually the topics creating the most stress day-to-day, and talking through them with the team is an excellent means to relieve much of that stress.
Yup, see this all the time, and it's one of the reasons I try to avoid most of them. Nothing gets done, half the people aren't really prepared, and the usual outcome is the guys with the biggest egos sound off and make themselves feel important and everyone else just has a good old moan.
It may be therapy for them, but I'd rather not be there, thanks!
Another reason that we should have less managers and instead elevate engineers into dual engineer/executive positions.
That made me think, that meetings were about making people feel that their work was meaningful when it wasn't. Basically, if you do meaningful work, you don't need meetings, but if its the other way around, meetings make total sense.
None of this is to say you are wrong though.
I hate it when I’m in a meeting and it ends up a conversation between two people. It’s stressful if you have an expectation to get something done but also an expectation to sit in a meeting you realize really doesn’t pertain to you.
Outside of some special cases (e.g. the Federal Reserve), they're specifically meant to reflect conclusions, not the full course of discussion. Back-and-forth that reaches an answer isn't needed, and a debate that ends unresolved would just read as a summary of the positions. That way, you can invite the people who need to speak in a meeting, while anyone who just needs to be informed about the result can catch up from a shorter, async source.
It seems like easy video recording and calling have been one reason for the decline - minutes were handy if someone couldn't make the meeting, but now they can dial in or watch it afterwards. That's great for not having to create a summary, but I think it loses much of the value of a concise, written record of what happened.
Working on a small team at my current company I don't have this issue at all. I remember when working at IBM that was my main gripe.
Literally the last paragraph hits the nail on the head for, I'd wager, the vast majority of people.
Edit: In most meetings I feel neutral and disaffected.
So this article doesn’t apply to tech-focused organizations. For sure, meetings are still relevant there, but should trend to fewer not more
We're supposed to feel less negativity towards meetings once we realize that its a way for the organization to assert its power over us? Reading this article only made me feel more negativity toward meetings, not less. What kind of an egotistical blowhard would prefer wasting his team's time and productivity, just to assert his own power and feel better about himself
If tou start feeling "whether I do honest work or slack, it makes no difference" you might start losing motivation.
Mötesboken : Tolkningar av arbetslivets sammanträden och rosévinsmingel, by
Malin Åkerström, Vesa Leppänen & Patrik Hall. (ISBN 978-91-984203-6-4)
There isn't enough actual work to go around, but everyone needs to be "employed". And since they subconsciously know that their jobs are pointless, they need to justify their existence through posturing and status and "visibility" and report production (which nobody reads) and endless meetings. Lots of activity, but little actual achievement. Middle management only ever grows @1, because everyone in the middle is in the same boat, and having more people under you makes you more important and less likely to lose your job or have your department cut.
@1: With the exception of the massive job purges the mega-corporations do once a decade or so.
If we need meetings to define our job then that is pretty unclear management. If you dont see how your role pertains to the overall goals of the org and need meetings to figure this out then there is a general disfunction.
Meaningful work and the ability to give and receive feedback. Less meetings.
They're just a product of a lazy/ineffective management style.
The problem is, proper task delegation requires a lot of work:
1. understanding the problem (probably the hardest problem)
2. understanding the organization and resources
3. breaking down the problem
4. assigning tasks appropriately
5. managing time, both of the process, and the delegates of the tasks.
When a manager does this properly, it's not a very 'visible' process, so nobody really knows they've done all this work.
Alternatively, lazy managers can just call everyone into a room and let them figure out everything. It doesn't require any upfront planning or understanding of the problem. And it comes with the bonus of high-visibility.
TL;DR: meetings are the result of lazy management.
And even if there were an overall trend: not addressing other scenarios seems like a substantial omission regardless.
The article makes it sound like the whole world needs status validation and/or a place to vent. I know enough places where stuff like that gets shut down, hard.
I want to go to the meetings described on my calendar.
But nearly every time “It’s a trap!”