Dr. Patrick E. Crawford
Leadership Thoughts | Issue #108
Have you been feeling "meeting fatigue?" How much of your week do you spend in meetings? How many take place face-to-face, and how many are conducted virtually? Are you the one who set them up, or did another person organize them? What would happen if you cut them out entirely for a day, week, or month? I have been mulling over these questions after reading an article called A Month with No Meeting: An Experiment to Build an Async-First Culture from TechSmith. This company produces amazing tech tools like Snagit and Camtasia.
Do you know someone who uses their busy schedule to show their importance to the organization? People wrongly assume that the more meetings someone attends, the more valuable they are. We even rely on web-based programs like Doodle, Calendly, StrawPoll, and Survey Monkey to find a meeting slot.
An article from Harvard Business Review titled "Dear Manager, You're Holding Too Many Meetings" recently claimed that 70% of meetings stop employees from doing productive work and negatively affect their mental health.
Before we go any further, I should clarify that I'm not opposed to meetings. Leaders are responsible for thinking carefully about their meetings and ensuring they are effective. Sometimes, they're essential and valuable tools for the organization and its members. I've even learned how to make them run as smoothly and efficiently as possible, and there are plenty of resources if you want help in this area.
My thoughts on this particular issue are two-fold:
What is the purpose of the scheduled meeting?
Could this same purpose be served by something other than an in-person or virtual synchronous meeting?
TechSmith has reported on their experience after canceling all meetings for a month, which might help answer my two questions.
The TechSmith Experiment
In the summer of 2022, TechSmith decided to spend 30 days without in-person or video meetings. Instead, they used asynchronous tools to exchange updates and feedback, discuss projects, and more. It makes sense that a tech company like that would promote using its technological tools instead of having traditional meetings. Here are some of the findings from this month without meetings.
Gathering for meetings is unavoidable; they allow people to share their thoughts and find solutions together. At the start of the month, they acknowledged that some meetings were important but managed to lower their frequency and length. 15% of the workers found themselves more productive and in control of their time. 8% thought it was beneficial to reduce meetings since it made them feel more careful about using their synchronous moments. 85% agreed that learning and taking up async communication rituals was valuable.
"Although TechSmith kicked off Async-First July by assessing meetings, information management became a primary theme by the end of the month. The positive employee feedback we received centered around the theme of autonomy. Employees value being able to refer back to emails, annotated screen captures, and recorded videos to verify details or refresh memories. This provides more time for deep thinking and task completion." (pg.11)
Questions arose about the no-meeting experiment. It became clear that people need to be able to connect, something only possible through in-person meetings. Without face-to-face interaction, people began to feel isolated, missing out on conversations and collaboration opportunities that would help build team spirit.
The TechSmith article inspired me to reflect on meetings and their purpose. I began my paper with these two questions:
What is the goal of this particular meeting?
Could the objectives be accomplished without an in-person or virtual gathering?
One of the main advantages of being together, physically or virtually, is that it creates a space where relationships can be formed and strengthened.
Thus, while the immediate reason for a meeting may be to tackle a specific problem or develop new ideas, it should always be seen as an opportunity to bond as a team. Also, asynchronous videos can be important when disseminating information, providing feedback, or presenting ideas. Working and learning are individualized endeavors, with room for improvement in streamlining or constructing more useful meetings via async videos.
TechSmith provided a handy chart with the following question: Should I schedule a meeting? To learn more about running effective meetings with async videos, check out How to Run More Effective Meetings with Async Videos.
Image linked from https://www.techsmith.com/blog/video-based-discussions/
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