A Meeting Heuristic


Who doesn’t like to complain about meetings?  If your job involves creative knowledge work you probably find that meetings interrupt your flow and keep you from getting the things done that you need to.  I’ve had a long and active resistance to useless meeting and I’ve tried to vote with my feet as much as I can, but I was recently thinking about which kinds of meeting I usually find to be wasteful and I think I have come up with a heuristic for identifying wasteful meetings.

If a meeting is run on a regular schedule and the time slot is longer than 1/2 hour, the meeting is most likely wasteful

In my experience, it is often ok to have a longer meeting if it is called on an as needed basis, and it is ok to have a regularly scheduled meeting if it kept short, but as soon as you have a meeting that is both long and regularly scheduled it will end up including a lot of waste.  Team work is vitally important in knowledge work and you can’t have teamwork without meeting together.  So it is not meetings themselves that are the issue.  The main thing is understand what effective team work looks like.  When the team is too big it rapidly changes from team work  to team discussion (or worse, arguments).  If the time slot for a meeting is longer than 1/2 an hour it usually indicates that there are a lot of people in the meeting.  There are times when larger groups need to get together and have discussions, but in the day to day work of the knowledge worker those times ought not to be common.  This is why we should not have regularly scheduled meetings with big attendee list – they end up being wasteful.

What about you?  have you experienced this with meetings?  What kinds of meetings do you dread and try to get out of going to?

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