You’re in a meeting. The stuff that’s being presented is boring, as is the presenter. You know the discussion will be long and tedious. So you start daydreaming. Dreaming about doing stuff without meeting.
Daydreaming without meeting
“Meetings are by definition a concession to deficient organization” is what Peter Drucker wrote in The Effective Executive. You either meet or you work. You can’t do both at the same time. Drucker again: “meetings need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger.” The danger lies in the fact that meetings tend to generate more follow-up meetings.
And you start daydreaming about an organisation with no meetings. How would such an organisation look like?
Meetings would be replaced by other activities. And you wouldn’t be waiting for the meeting to happen to do what you need to do. So things would speed-up.
4 levels of 21st Century Meetings
In an earlier post, I present the 4 levels of 21st Century Meetings. You have meetings for:
- operational and tactical stuff on team level
- strategy, values and governance on organisational level
- alignment and improving mastery
- connecting with the outer community and broader world
Now assuming that you’re making the transition to 21st Century Meetings, you would have meetings in those 4 levels.
Making the no-meeting organisation
What if we could achieve the results without having those meetings at all? Maybe it’s handy for you to have all the people together in a meeting, but is it also handy for them? Let’s give it a try:
- Operational meetings (for team level). If you need help from colleagues just walk by, call them, text them. Also use a (digital) board with all the actions to track how the team is moving forward.
- Tactical meetings (for team level). When a problem keeps getting in the way, post it on a (digital) board and ask your team (or even a broader community) to come up with solutions. Give a deadline for the answers, just to be sure to know when you should be able to move on.
- Strategy and values meetings (for organisation level). This is all about setting the purpose and the framework of how the work should be done (the values). To start with the latter: if you act along the value, also known as walking the talk… it will get noticed. No meeting needed there. When setting the purpose: a well-crafted questionnaire could do the trick. Also make sure you clarify your decision-making process (if someone is asked for input they’d love to know if they also have decision-making power).
- Governance meetings (for organisation level). This meeting, at whatever level, is about decision-making. A tough one to tackle without meeting because meetings also create commitment. But why not engage people in a different way? For example: write the upcoming decision on a big flip chart, give several options, hang the flip chart and let people vote and write comments. Then review what they’ve written, take their comments seriously, make a decision and inform them in many ways (with the flipchart, by text message and by walking by).
- Improving alignment. Share your information through existing channels, the ones you have and know. Are you anxious the information does not really reach them? Then that’s your problem, not theirs. You’ll have to find ways to be more effective in your communication without a meeting. Also be conscious that teams and people (in hierarchical position or not) communicate poorly and tend to blame others for not informing them. So stimulate your team members to do the extra mile. No meeting needed.
- Improving mastery. Increasing the mastery of your people through knowledge and training is essential. But should it really be done in a meeting room with long hours of listening to the expert? Ask the expert the do it one on one, give people some self-study and time. It’s probably cheaper with better results.
- Connecting with the community and outer world. This is about building the community. You should help the bonding in different ways. With a personal note, by sending them a small gift, by asking them a question on which they can chew and that would be helping you further.
Let’s give it a try without meeting
What do you think? Are you in for an organisation without meeting? I am! And if you manage, do not forget to celebrate successes with some cupcakes, open a bottle of wine late Friday afternoons in the office. Just be creative!