Seth Godin posted last week on Getting Serious About Your Meeting Problem. It was a good post, and brings up some things I’d like to develop further off and on.
For a longer treatment of the subject — and from a somewhat unexpected angle — I’d also recommend Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting.
Lencioni’s premise in Death by Meeting is not what you might expect. He doesn’t jump on the usual bandwagon of trashing on meetings. In fact, he believes that the mindset of “if I didn’t have to go to meetings, I’d like my job more” is not a good one. It would be like a surgeon saying, “If I didn’t have to operate on people, I’d like my job more.”
So instead, Lencioni’s point is that we need to make meetings better. In fact, he argues that meetings should be more interesting than movies.
The reason most meetings are bad is that they lack two things: (1) context and (2) drama. The way to make meetings better, then, is to provide context and drama.
To provide context, he lays out the different kinds of meetings that should exist, and argues that harm is done when we combine incompatible things into the same meeting. For example, tactical and strategic meetings should be kept distinct. You shouldn’t bog down a strategic meeting with tactical issues.
Beyond this, meetings ought to be more interesting than movies because they actually affect reality. They key to making them so is drama. Not artifical drama, for sure. But by being willing to engage in constructive ideological conflict and mine for differences, meetings become naturally engaging, compelling, and energizing.