Why meetings don’t work anymore

Meetings don’t work.

Or at least, most staff meetings are time-wasting, productivity-killing, creativity-suffocating products of wishful thinking or delusional thinking.

Before the pandemic and the mass movement towards remote and hybrid work, meetings were already problematic.

We’ve all seen meetings fail.

Most office meetings are the result of a policy of holding regular, often weekly, staff meetings. Or they are the result of procrastination. We can’t make a decision right now, so let’s schedule an appointment. Whether a new initiative, problem or idea inspires action, and planning a meeting feels like action.

Once the meeting begins, the eyes glaze over and some meeting participants begin to mentally tune the conversation while pretending to be paying attention. (Others don’t even pretend; it’s getting more and more normal or acceptable to be glued to a laptop or phone screen during meetings.

Meetings are often dominated by attention seekers, ladder climbers, extroverts, and long-winded talkers. In contrast, others tend to remain silent with little to no correlation between saying something and having something to say.

Meetings suppress creative thoughts. Most end in a fog of vagueness, without clear objectives, deadlines and assignments.

And employees hate them.

Many employees see meetings not as work, but as a break from work – a time to socialize. “Meeting is indispensable if you don’t want to do anything,” economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said.

The solution? Take control of your meetings, we are told by experts.

You’ve heard the meeting advice.

Start on time and exclude late participants. Make an agenda with no more than three items and stick to it. At the beginning, state the objectives of the meeting. Close the long-winded and press the silence to talk. Ban phones and laptops. Do not allow non-meeting tasks during the meeting.

Finally, end the meeting on time, even if the plan is not yet complete.

In other words, meetings are a huge waste of time unless you take drastic measures to forcibly force the minds, bodies and thoughts of your employees into a rigid, artificial, rules-based system.

Such regulated meetings were rare but feasible. And then came the Zoom meeting revolution of remote working. Video conferencing eliminated the ability to enforce some of the old best-practice meeting mandates.

So instead of banning devices with screens, they are now mandatory.

Meeting participants may be listening or have the meeting muted. They might be paying attention, or they might be playing online poker.

But the most likely mental activity during Zoom conversations might be staring at yourself and… stress about appearanceaccording to research.

Making meetings worse, flexible work schedules and the globalization of the workforce mean that it has become impractical to get everyone in the same meeting at the same time.

Meetings are like television – they required real-time engagement, or you missed it; now everyone tunes into their own schedules.

Yet we keep having so many meetings out of habit and delusion.

That’s why it’s time to replace most meetings with new standards and technologies that deliver the benefits of frictionless meetings.

The technology is already there.

It’s time to evaluate the integrated communications solutions within your organization that make sense and minimize the friction of internal communications. For example, replace video meetings with asynchronous video and other media.

Creating new standards is the hardest part.

But in general, it is possible to embrace asynchronous solutions with a good search function and integrate with other tools (such as planning, project collaboration and others).

Resolving meeting burnout and internal communication starts with recognizing that meetings are usually a waste of time and money and a source of real employee dissatisfaction.

I’ll say it again: meetings don’t work anymore.

Asynchronous internal communication tools do. So it’s time to cancel your meetings, clear your calendar and embrace the new technology available.

And you definitely don’t need to schedule a meeting to do this.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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