Why most business meetings are a waste of time

This post is going to make sense only if you have seen this not-really-funny and what-is-the-message-here ad for these chips brand ‘Bingo Mad Angles‘.  The ad maybe does a poor job of its original intent (sell chips) but does a brilliant job of helping visualize something else.

Setup : The ad is in a conference room with some executives debating the perfect ‘angle’ of the chip being advertised. Perfect angle for what end ? Doesn’t say. It’s an utterly pointless meeting with an utterly unknown agenda. Where have YOU seen that before ? today ? Exactly!

I always wondered what breeds it ? This obsessive need to call for meetings to debate or discuss minutiae that, if examined carefully, is either

(a) part of the job description of someone at the table if only that culprit was more decisive OR (b) too minor to waste everyone’s time on.

Most of the time the meeting stems from a ‘Let me cover my ass, and diffuse this decision ownership so no one can pin it on me’ mentality. Rarely is it coming from a need to better decision quality. I too have been guilty of it on shamefully too many to count occasions.

Dr. Alex Lickerman, at Psychology Today warns that the decison quality of large companies suffers because of their size, which is often directly responsible for daily errors and omissions of communication. Further, the larger the company, the more responsibility for outcomes becomes diffused, often preventing any one person from feeling accountable for the quality of any one project.

And a meeting is one of the most expensive ‘things’ a company spends money on. The more senior the participants, the more it costs. This is obvious but behavior doesn’t allude to it. Reid Hastie is Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business helpfully suggests 3 things you can do to ensure you stray off into Oz in your meetings. Merlin Mann in a video talked about how his buddy used limited tokens at his company to ensure meeting-junkies didn’t have a free run. Watch this fantastiic TEDtalk by the Jason Fried. The actions starts at 8:44 mins into the video.

You as the customer are paying for this in the cost of the product. I bet (since software’s marginal cost of production is close to zero) companies like Microsoft pay a really heavy price for meetings. As pass it on. And most are just to discuss the Mad Angle of the Chips.

 

 

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