Why Most of Your Meetings Suck

Why most meetings suck and what tools you can use to replace your meetings to help your team be more effective.

No one joins a company to sit in meetings. 1 2

There's a high likelihood you're reading this during a meeting.

One of the biggest frustrations I hear from other people in tech is that they have too many meetings and almost all of those meetings are pointless for them to be in.

In this article I'm going to discuss:

  • why do we have so many meetings and why do most of them suck?
  • what categories do most meetings fall into?
  • what tools can a company use to reduce meetings, increase effective communications and ultimately increase overall organizational happiness?

Why Do We Have So Many Meetings?

One of the benefits of working alone is that when you have an idea, you just kick it around in your head, give yourself the old "Captain Kirk head nod" and carry on with your business.

Working with at least one other person means your communication game has to be on point.

Working with other people means we have to communicate when we want to do something.

It also means that we need to have a pretty good idea of what that something is and depending on your organization's style of work, you may need to get permission (at worst) or just make sure others know what you're doing so that you can be a thoughtful citizen of the system.

When an organization reaches a certain size, whether that's the company, a department or a team, the need to start communicating synchronously in an organized way arises.

This 'synchronous, organized way of communication' is the definition of what a meeting should be.

When most people schedule meetings, especially recurring meetings, they're scheduled with this intent of getting everyone together to discuss some facet of the organization, usually 1) where we are, 2) where we're going and 3) what stands between where we are and where we want to go.

Why Most Meetings Suck

TODO

Types of Meetings

There are a few primary meeting types:

  • Project status update
  • Jam sessions
  • Decision
  • Kickoff
  • Planning
  • Company update

Company Update

TODO

A company update could be replaced with a Loom

Project Status Update

TODO

You Can Replace a Project Status Update with...

A public channel in Slack or Discord where each member who would be giving an update posts a Loom.

Jam Session

TODO

Replace a Jam Session with...

I don't think jam sessions can be easily replaced. Jam sessions require collaborative sense making and that's a hard process to do asynchronously.

Decision

A meeting to make a decision

Replace a meeting to make a Decision with...

Murmur (plug). Murmur is an asynchronous, decision making platform. The process is based on the concept of Integrated Decision Making (IDM) and since the process advances based on user-defined timers, any participant in the decision making process can complete their action and wait until they're notified that it's their turn again in the process.

Questions To Ask If You Should Replace a Meeting

  • Is this meeting for information or is something being decided?
  • What type of energy should this meeting bring?

TODO

Footnotes

  1. This is a riff on '"No one joined Shopify to sit in meetings." Nejatain wrote.' from This tech company is clearing out recurring meetings from employee calendars 3 on CNN.

  2. There are some people who love to schedule and hold meetings, but they're rare and their strength for organization and communicating should be used in other ways.

  3. Thanks to [Ana Chang], a peer at Murmur, for sharing this article with the team.