We’ve talked about meetings quite a bit in the past (see the posts below), but these comments from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive warrant resurrecting the topic.
Peter identifies a common time waster as malorganization, of which meetings are a symptom.
“Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One can not do both at the same time…There will always be more than enough meetings…Every meeting generates a host of little follow-up meetings—some formal, some informal, but both stretching out for hours. Meetings, therefore, need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger. But above all, meetings have to be the exception rather than the rule. An organization where everybody meets all the time is an organization in which no one gets anything done. Wherever a time log shows the fatty degeneration of meetings—whenever, for instance people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more—there is time-wasting malorganization.”
Joe Kerr: Once again I must take exception to the words of the genius, Mr. Drucker. I am a multi-tasker–a term, with which the old timer may not be familiar. I work in meetings all the time. I read and reply to mail, review financials, make phone calls. In fact, sometimes I get more done in meetings than outside of them.
Wanda B. Goode: I love Peter’s stuff. He is so honest and direct.
I’d like to point out one solution that Peter recommends. Don’t call a meeting with all your direct reports regardless of the topic and make them sit through a long drawn out affair where all participants feel the need to feign interest by asking questions that prolong the meeting even further. Rather, call the meeting for the 2 or 3 people that are required. Invite the rest to come if they are interested, but let them know that shortly after the meeting, they will receive a summary of the discussion and any decisions made together with a request for their feedback. This is a tremendous time saver and it ensures that no one feels left out.
Here’s a link to a Top Ten List of Time Wasters. Not surprisingly, meetings make the list.
Other Joe and Wanda posts on meetings:
More on Effective Meetings
Meetings are “Cockroaches of American Business.”