I am sure there are more good reasons to call a meeting than poor reasons. However, I think I have been to more meetings that happened for poor reasons. These include:
- We always meet on the 4th Tuesday of the month or first thing Monday mornings (meeting because it is time)
- We haven’t had a meeting in a long time (meeting because it is time)
- The boss formed this team so I guess we better have a meeting (meeting because we were told to)
- We need to tell people what is going on (meeting as a substitute for written communication)
- We need a meeting to figure out what we should do at our meeting (meeting as an alternative to doing the homework of planning and/or analysis)
- We need a meeting so people will feel they were heard and believe they had a say (meeting as manipulation)
- We need to meet or this just won’t get done (meeting as an alternative to self-discipline and accountability)
Note: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet if the above are true, it just means these are not reasons in themselves for having a meeting.
Time spent clarifying the purpose of a meeting is always time well-spent. In determining your purpose, it will be easier to work out the details if you think hard about the specific outcomes you desire. In general, people should leave with:
- A new understanding or perspective
- A shared goal or decision
- A specific assignment
- A new feeling of commitment, ownership or appreciation
But if you really want meetings to be effective, the first step is to acknowledge that meetings themselves are not evil. On the contrary, meetings are essential. How could they not be? If your meetings are bad, you must take responsibility for making them better.