Thursday, December 07, 2006


Cut Back On Unnecessary Meetings

The colorfully written article at the link below chronicles Best Buy's "attempts to torch the great American butt-in-chair charade". What are they talking about? Meetings, of course. You know, those silly little sit-downs for which you have to book a conference room. Those glass-box arenas where adversaries joust at each other from their swivel-chair chariots. According to the author, "Meetings are the devil. These days the workforce is taken hostage by process, process, process, and that often involves meetings. Cubicle Land has become a place where, when workers return to their desks at 6 p.m., only then do they have the time to begin returning phone calls, answering e-mails, and, well, doing their work." Amen. Although, for some of us, meetings are perversely valued as opportunities to kill time, relax and even engage in a little open-eyed snoozing.

Best Buy started Results Only Work Environment (or ROWE) "culture clinics" to wean managers and their teams away from a need for meetings. These "culture clinics" - which probably entail meetings themselves, I'll bet - often utilize "improv theater-like exercises", in which team members can participate to get the point across. Reportedly, some of their bosses have not been amused by their performances.

ROWE abides by these cardinal rules:

1) All meetings should be optional.

2) All meetings should have conference bridges that will allow participants to dial in.

3) Call meetings only as a last resort. If you can convey what you need to convey in an impromptu face-to-face that lasts 30 seconds, do that instead.

Too many meetings can be the sign of a manager who is insufficiently organized, or not strong enough to make decisions or take initiatives without requesting the input of others. On the other side of the spectrum, dictatorial managers may use meetings simply to test the compliance of their underlings. Calling a meeting at 7:30 AM or 6:00 PM, and then implying that your job depends not only on your attendance, but on your prompt arrival as well, is an example of this kind of abusive behavior.

The attitude at Best Buy, though, is that meetings are a time-waster - and I think most of us would agree.

"How To Kill Meetings" from BusinessWeek Online

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