Why you need to kill your weekly staff meetings

Al Pittampalli — №9 with Laura Stack

When Jack Welch stepped into his role as CEO of General Electric, he noticed a foot high stack of papers on his desk upon arrival every morning. It was an overnight worldwide sales and inventory report that was assembled daily by a small team. It showed how much (down to the unit) was in each one of his warehouses all over the world.

One day he asked his staff, “Why am I getting this report?”

“I’m not sure, that’s just the way we do things around here” they replied.

So Jack killed the report.

There is no process that needs to be considered for the chopping block more than regularly scheduled staff meetings. Just do a twitter search for #meetings and you’ll see the tweets of some pretty miserable people stuck inside meetings, searching for the answer to an obvious question: “Why am I here? What’s the point?”

Why do we have staff meetings? Let’s explore the 3 most common purposes of regularly scheduled staff meetings, and why they may have outlived their usefulness.

  1. To make decisions and resolve issues. If you’re trying to make a decision inside of a meeting, good luck. Large groups are great at disagreeing, but horrible at agreeing. Democratic decision making with a large group of people is almost always a recipe for disaster, and can cause stress and anguish for all. And even if there aren’t any issues to discuss, having a regularly scheduled meeting guarantees you’ll invent some.

  2. To get critical info to your staff. Using a meeting to communicate information and announcements is like washing your dishes with Evian water, it’ll work but it’s really expensive, and somewhat absurd. Think about it: 20 people at $100/hr, comes out to $2000 in a conservative estimate. With so many other communication options available, people abhor the idea of being herded into a room just to be force fed information they could have gotten through less intrusive means.

  3. To socialize and network with our colleagues. Let’s face it, we’re social creatures, we love to find any excuse we can to connect with others and meetings are one of them. Unfortunately, you may want to slow down and chat, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. It’s not fair to hold others who have more pressing things to do hostage, just because you want to socialize. 

So how do we kill the weekly meeting and not only survive, but thrive?

Here are 3 things you can do.

  1. Force individuals to make decisions, not meetings. One individual should take responsibility for a decision. Sure, she can consult with people individually if she needs input, but she ultimately needs to make the decision herself. Now, if a meeting is necessary to get buy-in from the group, alter a decision, or coordinate the resulting action plan, go ahead and call one.

  2. Use e-mail, audio, or even video to communicate info. Let people consume this info on their own time. They’ll thank you. Here’s the deal though, we have to create a sacred pact, you’ll agree to cancel the weekly meetings, but all must read the memo.

  3. Schedule a dedicated social event instead. Camaraderie, networking, and team bonding are critically important. But doing it under the guise of a meeting is silly, misleading, and ineffective. Not only is it a bad way to get things done, but it’s a bad way to socialize. If you want to have a social gathering, do it. Just make it short, make it voluntary and make it fun.

So, here’s my challenge to you: kill your regularly scheduled meeting tradition for a month.  If you miss it, you can blame me. But once you realize you don’t miss it, let it die… forever.

Photo: © Petr Vaclavek / Shutterstock

Al pittampalli

Al Pittampalli

Al Pittampalli is a meeting culture warrior. He’s on a mission to change the way orgBLanizations hold meetings, make decisions, and coordinate action. His book/manifesto: “The Modern Meetings Standard” was published on August 2nd through Seth Godin’s “Domino Project”.

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