It’s a scenario you’ve likely experienced too many times to count. You’re sitting at your desk powering through a bunch of work and then, “Ding!” — you’ve been invited to yet another time-sucking meeting. And it’s safe to assume that your colleagues felt the same dread you did when that invite hit their inboxes. But America’s meeting-obsessed culture impacts more that just the workforce’s mood — it threatens employee productivity, employee morale and your company’s bottom line. In fact, businesses waste $37 billion annually on unnecessary meetings. So how can you tell if your organization is suffering from Meeting Mania, and what can you do to get things under control?
There are three telltale signs that your company is having too many meetings.
- Real discussion seems to only happen via meetings.
Not over email. Not on the phone. But meetings. No matter how large or small the issue, if the only time people in your organization can seem to address anything is in a calendar-blocked meeting, your people may be wasting a ton of time.
- Meetings don’t have an agenda.
So let’s get this straight — the person who called the meeting didn’t lay out a clear goal for the team? Yikes.
If a meeting is scheduled, the organizer should make it clear to everyone within the invite what they hope to accomplish, and what each participant needs to provide in order to make that happen. If the organizer can’t articulate the anticipated outcome, the meeting probably shouldn’t happen until they’re able to do that.
- Everyone and their mom is in the meeting.
When meetings include more than a few key players, chances are good that not everyone needs to be there. Smaller powwows that include only key stakeholders and subject matter experts tend to be the most productive because the conversation is focused — extraneous side chatter is eliminated.
There’s one (slightly controversial) thing you can do to minimize meeting overload: make all meetings optional.
We know, we know — that’s a bold step. And as the “meeting optional” policy becomes a new feature of your company’s culture, some of your top meeting organizers might feel a bit miffed. But the payoff is well worth it, as a few key things will happen to boost meeting productivity.
Pointless meetings will get canceled.
And this will happen because the organizer will have to admit to themselves that no one will come to their meeting if it is made optional, or people will simply stop showing up to meetings that don’t add value to their day.
Organizers will think long and hard before creating a meeting.
No one wants egg on their face from having scheduled a meeting that no one came to. It’d be like the work version of hosting a party and having no one show up except for the DJ. As a result, employees will find more efficient ways to get the answers they need from key stakeholders, and call official, larger meetings only when absolutely necessary.
Meetings will have agendas.
Because meetings are optional, organizers will need to convince invitees that this gathering is worth their while — that there’s an actual reason they should give up their time to attend. Thus, organizers will need to lay out some form of an agenda to get people in the room.
Give the “meetings optional” approach a shot. Once your employees get over the initial shock, the results might surprise you.