Meetings Where Everyone Shares What They’re Working On

At the UN, we had a weekly staff meeting. 20+ people would cram themselves into a room and share what they’re working on that week. Everyone else chimes in with their opinions.

Can you think of a worse way of working?

You get the opinions of people who have not been as involved in your project, who don’t have your level of experience, who don’t understand the goals and constraints as well as you (in one meeting our community strategy was critiqued by a staff member from the souvenir shop).

Now imagine the position this puts you in. You can either accept poor quality advice to the detriment of your project or you can ignore the opinions of your teammates and potentially hurt your working relationships.

This is a terrible way to work. Yet it’s the very situation many bosses, team leaders, and professionals put their teams in every single week. Not only are most team meetings a staggering waste of time and money (20 people earning $50 per hour makes each meeting cost $1k. Multiply this by 52…and you start to get the idea), they hurt the very projects they’re trying to help.

Big group meetings to keep everyone informed are the worst way to keep anyone informed. Almost half the group wait for their turn to speak, others are working on their laptops (defeating the point entirely), and those that are listening are likely to be interested by 10% of what is discussed.

If you need to keep everyone informed, share a Google doc. Ask everyone to submit what they’re up to and send it out as a PDF the end of the week requesting a digital signature when each person has read it. You can save yourself $52k a year. Project tracking-apps like Trello work just as well too.

This works just as well for almost any plausible reason to have a big team meeting.

  • If you need expert opinions, solicit the opinions of experts.
  • If you need to get approval, send the project to the person who gives the approval.
  • If you need to bond the team together, do a team bonding activity off-site for a day.
  • etc…

It blows my mind in this technologically-gilded age we still believe that stuffing people in a room waiting to speak one at a time is seen as the best option.


  1. Todd Nilson says:

    I have never been a fan of the status update meeting, although organizations have a tendency to fall into this trap all too frequently. We have amazing tools for providing status updates if only we use them wisely. One problem continues to be that we have too many notifications set by default. We are overwhelmed by these notifications and it is too difficult to sort out the signal from the noise.

    How did we get to this juncture? Well, a contributor to the state of apps that insist upon notifying you of everything under the sun is that they’ve been designed to reward your attention as if you were a Pavlovian dog. They take advantage of our desire for novelty and that little squirt of dopamine you get when a bell goes off or we get a “like.” In the past year, I’ve made a point of turning off most of my notifications. I’ve even taken it to the point of unfollowing the updates of many people in my social networks who I simply don’t know that well or care about.

    What are you doing to protect your time? What meetings have you skipped because they are status updates and how did you gracefully opt out of them?

    As a parting thought, I was reminded of the business book Essentialism by Greg McKeown that I read last year when I saw Rich’s piece this morning. Has anyone else read it?

  2. Sarah Hawk says:

    I turned badges off on my phone last year and it was liberating.

  3. Todd Nilson says:

    It really is liberating. You find that you have more time than you thought and you quickly realize how much you’re getting interrupted on a regular basis. Think about the time that it takes to refocus even after what you might consider a tiny interruption. It adds up!

  4. Suzi Nelson says:

    I removed Slack from my phone when I went on vacation a few weeks ago and can’t bring myself to add it back on… so many notifications.

    Where I work, Wednesdays are meeting days. Individual team meetings are in the morning, and a group meeting is at the end of the day- we have a spokesperson for each team stand up and give a recap of what they are working on. Each team has three big objectives to meet that month (for instance, my team (Content) has a goal to increase organic reach by a certain amount). We let everyone know if these goals are on track or not, and then tell everyone what our projects are that week.

    It’s time consuming, but its helped IMMENSELY in getting everyone on the same page. Our people cant keep an online calendar updated to save their lives - we’re a very hands-on bunch, so there are whiteboards all over the office (promo calendar, days-off calendar, video projects, dev projects, a “war room” where all the walls are nothing but white boards)… these meetings are vital to putting all the peices together and getting on the same page.

    But thats just us. We’re weirdos. :stuck_out_tongue:

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