Death by Meetings

Does anyone have any tips for “death by meetings” in a company? We recently implemented a matrix management (50 people), but are already finding we’re having waaay too many meetings. I was thinking of RACI method and going over good meeting practices, but this feels like it will need to be a bit more of a cultural shift…any input about practices that have been successful in your companies would be appreciated!

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I love this question @timariechan.

One simple thing you can do - no agenda / description = no meeting! I find that when people don’t include this, they haven’t really thought through what the meeting is for and why it is needed. Another practice I try to maintain is adding attendees as optional. My last tip, carve out time in calendars that is for deep work and ask people to check before booking over the top, if they don’t check in, I’ll happily reject the invite.

Interested to hear what others have tried!

Cheers

Deb

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You could limit the amount of time meetings can be booked for and hold people accountable (set timer on phone for example). They will get used to getting straight to business to make the most of their time. You could also get rid of chairs in meeting rooms. This sounds extreme but it works. Turns out when people stand, they are more motivated to get to the point and not have pointless meetings! You could also encourage different types of meetings - walking meetings (make sure they know their route before they go and it should end by the time they get back), lunch and learn, etc. so staff can be productive in other ways as they catch up instead of the traditional meeting. You could also consider utilising an internal messaging platform to encourage more informal communication at work (think Slack or Teams) to help reduce meetings. I hope this helps!

A few ideas:

  • Designate a facilitator (to keep the conversation moving) and a recorder (to note decisions made and next steps, NOT all the minutes). Make sure you share the notes afterwards, so that even if you didn’t attend, you still know what happens—reducing meeting attendance.
  • Keep each meeting to one “type”—it’s either a status meeting OR a brainstorming session, for instance. If you’re in a status meeting and a few people start brainstorming about a project that has nothing to do with you, you’re going to be frustrated.
  • To the best of your ability, limit meetings to no more than 10 people. It’s just math: the more people you have, the less time each individual has to speak.
  • Don’t try and make a lot of changes all at once—instead, do small experiments to see what has the most impact.

Lastly, in our work transforming company cultures, meetings are a constant pain point—but they’re often a symptom, not the underlying cause. Maybe the real issue is how decisions get made—everyone feels like they have to attend meetings because they’re made by consensus. Or maybe leaders “reward” people for looking smart in meetings as opposed to quietly getting the work done. Use those small experiments to get to the root of the issue.

If you’re interested, we’ve actually written a booklet that breaks down the key meetings each team needs to have, including step-by-step instructions for each meeting: Team Tempo. Happy to chat more if you have questions!

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We have a template that we’ve embedded into our Outlook meeting invites:

What for? (purpose, issue, topic, risk)

What’s involved? (impact, approach, mitigation)

What next? (actions, owners, timeframes)

It makes people go through the exercise before pressing send. Often people will fill out the template and realise they don’t need a meeting and perhaps a quick phone call would suffice…

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