06 Apr Meetings to Talk About Meetings to Talk About…
Several years ago, there was a company in my area that had a meeting… to talk about how they were having too many meetings and it was dragging down productivity. 🤦♀️
In the early days of this business, I spent some $ on a time and motion study. In other words: how can I maximize my time? How can I best eliminate silly nonsense and redundancy to be as productive as possible? It became very clear that tasks like “quick touch-ins,” Zoom calls, “let’s hop on a quick call,” “let’s have a ‘touch base’ every X morning,” were huge time drains. Not only that, but those “quick” calls were never fast and they honestly never accomplished anything that couldn’t have been solved via email. Never. Not a single time.
To me, some of this goes back to the pageantry and the play-acting of Corporate America: it makes us feel good and feel in control of you if we can command you to hop on the phone at any given moment. I had a conversation once with a prospective new client and when I asked her what the necessity was for any contractor or consultant to camp out on a Slack channel all day, she stuttered and sputtered and stammered trying to seek out a valid reason. She finally admitted, “Well, it’s what we’re used to. I guess we just like seeing the green light and knowing the person is right there.” HARD PASS.
The other thing is: too much of the work day gets eaten up by distractions. My mortgage broker once told me, “I think if everyone worked commission-only, there’d be a lot less BS and time-wasting nonsense in this world.” Indeed. On average, it takes about 23 minutes to recover your focus each time you get distracted. (https://www.themuse.com/advice/this-is-nuts-it-takes-nearly-30-minutes-to-refocus-after-you-get-distracted) Over the course of a day, if you are getting bombarded with “quick touch-bases” and “strategy meetings” and “kick-off calls,” how in the hell will you get any actual work done? If you freelance or own your own business, the onus is on YOU to set the rules of engagement and make it crystal clear that unwanted distractions are not welcome. Moreover, the advantage to the client is that you will be much more productive and focused. This saves them time and money. So which is more important: do they want the deliverable done well and on time OR do they want control and surveillance? If it’s the latter, run. Don’t walk away. Run.
LinkedIn published an article recently titled, “Strategy meetings are disappearing” and you can find it here: https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/strategy-meetings-are-disappearing-5802538/. In the blurb, editor Cate Chapman writes:
“It’s perhaps not surprising that strategic planning sessions were put on the back-burner amid the chaos of the pandemic. A global survey of more than 1,000 ‘knowledge workers’ by Asana has found that 9% of the workday was devoted to planning ahead last year, down from 13% in 2019. That’s partly because the uncertain nature of COVID forced many business leaders to forget about long-term thinking and jump into “reaction mode,” Bloomberg reports. But it’s also because office shutdowns complicated the process of getting teams and managers together for grand strategizing sessions.
The poll found that, as was the case pre-COVID, employees spend only a third of the day on the work they were hired to do.
Much of the rest of the day is spent on ‘work about work,’ such as organizing and attending meetings.”
One of the things we have to think about, especially from a Lean perspective, is: if we have been able to live without “grand strategizing sessions” for two years and the world didn’t spin off its axis, do we need to rekindle them? And if so, why? Doesn’t there need to be a very good reason for it?
One of the responders wrote a telling post:
So half of the work day is dedicated to preparing to work. I guess it would be like spending a 60 minute workout with 30 minutes dedicated to preparing to warm-up and stretch before you actually do it. But to me, this is no surprise. When a company values tons of meetings, “huddle-ups,” “check-ins,” “touch-bases,” etc., over the actual end result, what else could happen?
Matthew Boyle also wrote this article on Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-05/more-than-half-of-the-working-day-is-spent-kinda-sorta-working?sref=WJEuI3j5
Unfortunately, you may have to pay to access it in its entirety, but the gist of the article is: a lot of white-collar workers spend a lot of time shuffling paper around.
So I think we’re getting close to a tipping point here: continue to waste time on silly activities that don’t go anywhere or focus on the end result.