Meetings are the opposite of work

Business people working at meeting.

Besides Turbine, where this article first appeared, my other business is Articulate Marketing and we work with some of the world’s biggest companies, including Microsoft, HP and Symantec. The one thing I notice at all these companies is that people have diaries crammed with meetings; one after the other.

An early-rising friend of mine in a big company once said to me, “from six to nine, I work. From nine to six, I am worked.” I think this sums it up pretty well.

I think one of the reasons I get so much more done than other people is that I really try not to have meetings or, if I do, to have them on the phone or web video so I don’t have to spend time travelling. I’m also pretty good at concentrating.

Back in 2007, YouGov, the polling company, carried out a survey of 1,200 businesses in the UK and reported that unnecessary face-to-face meetings cost UK businesses £17 billion annually.

  • 23 percent said that they could save 1-2 hours a week by not attending off-site meetings. 21 percent claimed 3-4 hours and 11 percent believing that 5-6 hours were at stake.
  • Half of respondents said that they have to plan their work around external meetings.
  • 67 percent travelled at least once a week for meetings.
  • 82 percent believed that many of these meetings were unnecessary and could have been accomplished over the phone.
  • Two thirds travel by car with obvious implications for carbon emissions.

Turbine exists to help people avoid wasting time on needless paperwork. But what’s the antidote to needless meetings?

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7 Responses to Meetings are the opposite of work

  1. John Mc October 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    This reminds me of Jason Fried’s excellent rant and campaign against meetings. I think his central argument is that stuff still gets done, even if you cancel meetings and let people hold discussions on an ad-hoc basis. I think he’s right: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelnoer/2011/01/07/boycott-a-meeting-day-is-a-revolutionary-idea/

    • Matthew Stibbe October 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      Yes, I’m basically Jason Fried but with an English accent. :-)

  2. Edgar October 29, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    And you haven’t even touched on the meetings to arrange a meeting !

    As for an antidote, somebody needs to identify the cost of the wasted work hours.

    Unfortunately the people calling for the meetings are probably the same ones who would have to sanction any change.

    • Matthew Stibbe October 30, 2011 at 8:58 am #

      But the people who call these meetings don’t care about the cost. Have you ever had one of those things were you spend two weeks juggling your diary to accommodate a big shot client and then they cancel at the last minute? Or a situation where someone insists on a face-to-face meeting and you take a half day to drive there and back only to spend ten minutes discussing something that could have been done on the phone or by email? Meetings are all about ego.

  3. Allister Frost October 31, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Ouch, this is so true as to be painful. I’m reminded of the Dilbert quote “Always postpone meetings with time-wasting morons”; if only business life were that simple.

    • Matthew Stibbe October 31, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      If only, Allister! Now, when are we going to have our meeting! :) :)

  4. Bill Bennett November 3, 2011 at 6:08 am #

    I’ve always been fond of Peter Drucker’s take on the subject. He once said: “One either meets or one works”.

    http://wp.me/pAuht-nS

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