Following on from my earlier post about 'brainstorming' I was interested to read about the new book from the guys behind 37signals - the productivity people behind basecamp. It's called Re:work and it's about getting stuff done, a topic close to my heart. You can download a preview PDF here. I am not sure if I totally agree with their comments on meetings as they see them (perhaps rightly) as a block to actually doing things, and this makes them Bad and Wrong.
I certainly have worked with a couple of companies where all the marketing people are in meetings all day long and then work in the evening, and you wonder if all this group activity and consensus building actually helps make better products in the end.
At their worst I think meetings are responsibility sharing mechanisms. Building excuses for failure and sharing the blame: "it wasn't my fault, we agreed it in a meeting". However, many of the same principles apply for meetings as they do for brainstorms, you are essentially exchanging productivity for team building and developing a shared sense of purpose. I heard something interesting the other day, in that at least 50% of the purpose of a meeting has got nothing to do with the work, it is about engendering the feeling of joint responsibility and having a common goal.
Nonetheless, the following tips from the 37signals people may be helpful if you find yourself in 6 hours of meetings today:
Set a timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.
Invite as few people as possible.
Always have a clear agenda.
Begin with a specific problem.
Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes.
End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.
"By 2011, McKinsey research suggests, China should have a lower middle
class of 290 million people; by 2025, the upper middle class will be
520 million strong, with staggering disposable wealth. For many
multinationals, this is the market of the future."