God I hate meetings?

I, like many, when faced with a day of meetings used to complain.  Stuck in a meeting rather than doing something useful, being unclear why I was even there and the ongoing battle for a declining number of meeting rooms.

In recent years my attitude to this has evolved.  Being a former Business Analyst my interactions with others and the information I gathered was crucial to being able to do my job effectively.  My diary and the meetings booked were my progress as part of a project to getting the work done – 3 meetings out of 5 done so I was 60% through my task.

Working in an organisation where everyone’s main interaction is via booked meetings can be a real logistical nightmare. Planning becomes important and if someone’s availability changes, well, that could ruin a whole week.

I’ve recently tried arranging a day with an external company and its since shifted twice, moving from June to September.   That’s a long time in our digital age; the knowledge we would have shared in June could have driven amazing changes by September.

My opinion has thus shifted again, from seeing meetings as stopping me doing work, to meetings allowing me to get work done, to putting me in a position where I resented in some cases having to wait for meetings, as this was the only time I could get time with someone.

So, the next chapter in my career brought me to Agile and the Scrum Framework.  The word collaboration excited me because as a BA this was essentially my key skill.  A cross functional team, co-located and with a common goal who could collaborate at any time?  How exciting.

I found that even with this platform team members may still not collaborate and they still preferred to be told the what and when and cared little for the why.  Seeing talking about how we would approach solving the problem as a distraction to solving the problem.  So we again found ourselves forcing collaboration through booking meetings – dragging the team into a room and forcing the collaboration.

I arrived at some conclusions.  It’s not the word meeting or the intention of a “meeting” that is the issue.  A meeting can be defined as:

an assembly of people for a particular purpose, especially for discussion. A situation when two or more people meet, by chance or arrangement.

This sounds exactly what we are intending, not an hour taken out of my day with little consideration for the intended purpose, for the things I am currently working on.  The worst kind of meetings are poorly planned, with no agenda and no resulting action.

So why do we even have meetings?  Well everyone should ask that question.  Nobody should attend a meeting they have no detail about, that is perceived as having little or no value.  We are in the value creation business so our time is precious.

James Reed recently shared a quote with me that really resonated:

If you lose money you can always make it back again, but if you lose time it is gone forever.

So time is very much money, so to make any meeting valuable, the location should be considered.  It doesn’t always need to be in a room, it could be anywhere – at your desk or a local coffee shop.  The main point is to make sure there is a clear purpose to meet and make sure its met, if not, reflect with the attendees on why not and ensure you improve in future.  You don’t always need to let the meeting run the full time, if the purpose is met or unclear, why not end it early?

Idea generating, knowledge sharing and learning are great fun so a day of meetings is now something I look forward to.  The variation is great.  Some meetings are 5 minutes at my desk, some an hour over lunch and some 3 hours in a workshop.  All though are valuable and improve me as an individual, us as a team and make for a better customer experience as a result.

So shall we set up a meeting?

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