The End of Meetings, The Start of Missions

As I was reading my Facebook stream this morning, a simple message from Sally Hogshead, author of the book, Fascinate (and a great, inspirational speaker on creativity) struck me:

“Every meeting should be planned with a specific change in mind. Nobody needs more status quo!”

As I thought about this, it occurred to me that the whole problem with meetings is that most of the time, things don’t get done. Or not enough gets done.

One objective = one meeting.

What we need isn’t more time. We need less of it.

See, we’ve become far too comfortable in trying to do a lot with the time we have. Because we come armed with too many objectives. Whether we’re talking about co-workers or clients, the excuse here has always been that getting everybody together at once is rare, so we need to make the most of when it does happen by shoving everything possible all those people have in common in one meeting.

You don’t. Staying true to Ms. Hogshead’s mantra, you couldn’t possibly make more than one big change as a result of one meeting that’s efficient. That’s why it’s more than a meeting. It’s a mission. And the purpose of that mission is to achieve an answer to _____.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about brainstorming, this doesn’t have to mean locking everyone in a room for hours. It means having a clear agenda, having a defined period of time when brainstorming is going to occur and having a clear stopping point. Part of the reason meetings are such a drag is because they have no clearly defined beginning, middle and end.
If it’s not that big of a deal and doesn’t change business as usual, why are we meeting? Good question. Maybe we shouldn’t be. At least not in the conventional way.

Which brings us to some tools that maximize what we really need to be having most of the time – efficient conversations. Yammer, Skype, Google Hangouts and 37 Signals’ Basecamp product are just some of the simple tools to help us collaborate quickly by instant message or video. What about that extra-curricular stuff people tend to chatter about that isn’t absolutely central to the main reason for assembling together? Push it into this area too, using these types of tools for what they’re best for – communicating quick questions or even holding a virtual brainstorm.
Call these the new “meetings” if you like. Because they aren’t business-changing like a “mission.” But they are still much better than the tired, old method of waiting for everyone to cram together in one place to talk.

We’re not getting any more time to spend with our colleagues and clients. We’re getting less of it. So don’t just meet. Make it your mission to hit the ground running – with one purpose, one defined period of time and one result that strives to shake up the status quo.

Although they may not actually say it, everyone in the room will be mentally thanking you for it.