Aside

Meetings are SuperTax of Work

We create a huge tax on everything we do when we insist on meeting more, later.


Send stuff out that is best read so we don’t have to spend time slowly processing, together. Expect people to do that work on their own. They’ll thank you when they get 50% of their calendar back after you cancel all the meetings that are about knowledge transfer. In fact, no meeting should be assumed as an hour. It should be 30 minutes. (Every IT person could go reset the standards on Outlook and be the hero of their organization.)

When you are in front of the person, do the “ask” right then. Be direct and forthright about what you want. Get to the point. Name the issue. Ask the question. Later, let people know how you acted on what information they provided. But don’t stand in front of them, and ask for a meeting so that some more bonding can happen.

And, No, Really: No one can even decide IF there’s a need to meet, if you can’t share the purpose of getting together.

I notice that when that big crowd cues up after I talk, the men do the “ask” right there and then, and the women mostly ask for a meeting. It’s an unnecessary tax. In that context, I don’t need to bond with you more to help you. I’m there as an expert and if I can be of help, of course I’ll help but not if you make it burdensome. (Alternatively, just because we’ve met once in the bathroom of some conference doesn’t mean you can now open my whole rolodex, to get intros. We have no shared commitment. Start with the right ask.)

Any time we are together, we should be thinking together — not downloading, and not transferring knowledge, and certainly not surprising people with an asks that they didn’t know about going into the meeting. Meetings, they are the supertax of work.

4 Responses:

  1. Nishith. March 13, 2012 at 4:47 am  |  

    Agree. Time is scarce, need to optimise its usage RT @nilofer “Get to the point. Name the issue. Ask the question.”

    Reply
  2. Avinash Agarwal. March 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm  |  

    Wow such a refreshing post after long Nilofer.I was getting kinda bored with your last few posts.

    Reply
    • Nilofer Merchant. March 19, 2012 at 10:59 pm  |  

      Sorry about that. I wish there was a way to sort the posts based on “opinionated” vs. “researched”. I know some people like one more than the other… But with me, you just gotta take ‘em as they come.

      Reply
  3. Satheesh. March 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm  |  

    Very well written. The total productivity loss due to meaningless meetings in a typical large organization is huge. I have sat through meetings were 20 people walkthrough multiple pages of documents, instead of doing some pre-work of reading it before the meeting. A meeting without agenda and firm action items ends up like a country club gathering.

    Reply

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