The power of meetings
Last week's post spoke about the real cost of meetings. This week's post is about how you can make the most of these costs. The idea is to make sure that these are investments that generate a return and not a sunk cost of operating.
There are plenty of people advocating to simply abandon or drastically cut their time in meetings. This seems to make sense - until it doesn't. It's a little bit like lap-band surgery. You could easily go into your calendar and simply remove all meetings
(a bit like surgery that reduces stomach size by 2/3). Chances are that at least one of the following will occur:
It will soon fill up with more meeting requests
You will miss out on important decision making opportunities
People come to a conclusion that they can get stuff done without your input!
This is a bit like what happens when people who have lap-band surgery don't make other lifestyle (diet and exercise) changes. Despite initial success like weight loss, reduced risk of chronic diseases including the reversal of Type II diabetes, these can all return pretty quickly if the underlying causes of these are not addressed. In short, cutting meeting time alone is a blunt instrument for a deceptively complex problem.
Rather than focusing on time in meetings, it is more valuable to focus on power in meetings. My favourite way that power is defined in physics is:
Power is Work divided by Time.
This is exactly the way that we should consider our meetings.
The fact is that if you have 90 minutes of good work to do, trying to jam it into 30 minutes is a bad idea. Nothing meaningful gets done (low quality and low volume of work) and you will need to reschedule another time for everyone to meet again (high time). Low work divided by high time equals low power! Much better to have the right amount of work scheduled for the right amount of time.
We need to get the power up! Here are ways that you could do that:
reducing time in meetings (assuming that the same amount of work gets done)
keeping the time the same and getting more work done
having more time in meetings - and getting proportionately more work done
By focusing on both time and probably more importantly the work that gets done as a result of the meeting, we can lift the power and make meetings a worthwhile investment.
My questions for you to consider this week are:
How powerful are your current meetings?
What is a way that you could make your meetings more powerful?