Go meeting-free and still get enough protein
Communication is essential to organizational life like proteins are essential to our bodies. Often called the “building blocks” of our bodies, proteins hold a central role in most cell functions. Rather similarly, we credit communication as the essential vehicle for smooth collaboration and coordination in most organizational functions.
Back to the protein: animal meat still has a reputation as the best protein source, but it is also widely accepted that humans get high-quality protein, and meet their recommended intake amount, after reducing or eliminating meat altogether. Protein is still essential, but we know that there is more than one way to get it.
Communication is still essential to getting things done, and well done, in organizations. But, are meetings the only way to get high-quality communication? Or, can we supplement with something else?
Will the routine meeting ever become an outmoded communication tool of the past?
No, according to the authors of The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office during a recent NPR Talk of the Nation interview.
As inefficient as it may seem to have these meetings where we get together… to exchange soft information…[it is] the only way critical scraps get uncovered. They cannot be replaced.
Do you agree?
This notion of efficiency came up again and again during the NPR interview, and it really made me think about the most efficient and inefficient meetings I have experienced, and how I could measure that.
I know my favorite moments in meetings are when I learn that someone already found a solution to an obstacle I was struggling with all on my own, or when I see that a well-intentioned colleague now realizes their work has unintended consequences on my work. I actually find myself grateful, not resentful, for the meeting, because these incredibly valuable moments would not have otherwise happened. Or would they?
I know of an organization that reserved the last twenty minutes of every staff meeting for a rotating employee spotlight where someone got to share something personal. Would this practice take hold just anywhere? What led management to conclude that this was an efficient way to spend meeting time?
I can recall several close-knit teams I have worked with for whom this practice would be a joke: they simply do not need an employee spotlight, a time-consuming practice that would have introduced unnecessary formality and duplication of something that already occurred quite organically. Twenty minutes of each meeting sounds like an awful lot of time, but is it more “expensive” than the intentional time it takes to selectively hire for, nurture, and maintain an organizational DNA where this happens organically?
I sure am curious what the rest of you think. What is the best meeting substitute you have seen? If you instituted/designed it yourself, or even if you didn’t, how did you know it was working?
Will the routine meeting remain the sacred cow of organizational life?
Special thanks to Lauren Richter for pointing me to this recent Talk of the Nation episode, and for sharing thoughtful resources as always!