Is your Meeting Culture anarchistic or fascistic?

The workplace is evolving and we’ve become more and more flexible about where we work. Today (most) companies will allow you to connect from anywhere and work in the office/from home/from the café or from the waterfront beach house with your toes in the sand.

The work space itself is changing too; first we moved from cubicles to open office and now it seems we are moving back to cubicles (albeit they are now trendy, fabric-covered designer boxes or green-wall solutions). More companies have started to design the work space to reflect their (designed) company culture and never before has the work place been so purposefully designed to impact employee behaviour and make them feel and perform better at work.

So why is it that our meeting culture seems to stay the same? Some organizations are rigid in starting meetings on time. Some teams are great at ending meetings on time. Others start their meetings when everyone’s arrived (which is rarely on time). Many meetings flow over time. Few meetings actually get to the point. Regardless whether the meeting culture is anarchistic or fascistic, ALL MEETINGS are ineffective, time killers sucking the energy out of everyone attending.

Let’s just admit it. The participants on telecon are asleep (yes, officially we call it muted), the people on videocon are pretending to have a bad connection, or the camera is ‘accidentally’ pointing away from the person (who is scrolling his way through today’s news on his smartphone). Even the attendants, who decided to arrive at the physical meeting room, are not shy to check their Facebook and LinkedIn feed, while the meeting is still on.

I have seen companies try to set down meeting guidelines that aim to increase meeting effectiveness by laying out a structured agenda and others, who thought that enforcing a minute of mindfulness would magically focus everyone’s attention to the matter at hand. The truth is all of these solutions are not addressing the real problem: meetings need to be redesigned. We should be rethinking how to even have meeting and if we should even have meetings in the first place.

Format; why do we have recurring weekly, monthly, quarterly meetings? Does it correspond to the rhythm of our organization’s activities or are activities and events actually happening faster/slower/at a different pace? Did we consider if information could flow more effectively through other formats than meetings?

Timing; why are all meetings booked for one hour, ie. 11-12? More often than not, this will book my calendar all day with little to no breathing space: 9-10, 10-11, 11-12, 12-13 etc. etc. If I need to get more coffee, run from one building to another, or even just pee – I am bound to be late and cause the other meeting participants to either wait (think hourly cost x number of participants divided by 60 x minutes I was late), or start the meeting on time causing me to miss out on the first minutes of the meeting and not have a clue what is going on for the rest of the hour…

I don’t have the answers (although my husband did create an add-in to Outlook that inserts time for my pee break), but I know I am not the only one who truly hates meetings, and is excited to welcome the first startup to rethink meeting cultures.

So how would you define your meeting culture? Are your meetings exciting and effective? Please do not hesitate to share!

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