I had a client almost two years ago that was plagued by meetings. Many employees would have back-to-back meetings lasting all day. All of the common symptoms were there: unessential people, no agenda, no clear goals or tasks at the end of a meeting. I remember being annoyed by this the whole time, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was having back-to-back meetings about the same thing.
We coined the term MDD or Meeting Driven Development for them and helped eliminate a huge percentage of their meetings with a few simple rules and tricks to show them him much a meeting really cost them.
First, if there was no clear agenda over email at less an hour before, there was no meeting, period. Initially it was just the consultants that wouldn’t show up, but the full time staff eventually did this too. Often this would eliminate meetings entirely as questions could be answered over email.
Second, we set up a mailing list for people to post to on topics that were relevant to the business including off-topic boards so people could have fun and not clog inboxes. This helped kill meetings by giving them a searchable repository of knowledge.
Third, a wiki was set up with many common threads expanded in a more readable format. Wiki pages were updated and constantly referenced in the mailing lists.
What was the result? More productivity due to more time not wasted in meetings. People actually had time to do work again.
People often wonder why consultants can be so effective at a client site. There are many reasons, but a good one is not being subject to all of the administrative tasks and processes that an employee is put through. Sometimes it is simply that consultants cost too much for the client to be willing to foot the cost of a distracting meeting. Employees are no less important.
Note: agile principles dictate people over process which encourages talking rather than documenting. I’m not against all meetings, only unimportant ones that are wasteful of everyone’s time. Don’t invite 10 people for an hour when 2 for 5 minutes will do just fine for now.