As a follow up to my last post, “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work”, I wanted to bring attention to Jason Fried (and perhaps the 37signals crew) actually doing something about his disdain for meetings: Boycott A Meeting Day
When you visit the website, you see the follow pledge bar (taken at 2pm):
While I can definitely agree that meetings can be a waste of time, I want to spend a moment acknowledging the value they have, which is primarily at the start and end of tasks, in my experience.
Let’s be honest – there have probably been a number of times when you started a project, task, etc., where you had no idea what was going on until you were briefed on it. Luckily, at the meeting, you were able to ask questions to the person presenting the information, which hopefully was someone knowledgeable enough to answer the questions. In this instance, a chain of emails and phone calls back and forth would have been a much larger waste of time than a meeting was, especially when you multiply those interactions out to cover each person in the meeting.
When projects are done, it is helpful to reflect on it as well as share information with others about how to move forward. Meetings and group discussion are also helpful tools for this, especially since many groups I have worked with would have benefitted from a longer reflection period about our work before we moved forward into a new project (both about the project and about our group interaction).
But what about when meetings are “real work”
For some people (such as project managers, principal researchers, team leaders, etc) meetings are real work, in contrast to what Friend and 37signals are arguing below the pledge bar. There are many people I know who need to meet with others in order to start or end projects. For these people, boycotting meetings would be a detrimental blow to their work. So perhaps what Fried should have done was create “Boycott Unnecessary Meeting Day” acknowledging that even he (like when he presented at TED) spends time in meetings.