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.
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.