Too Many Meetings!

The most common complaint you might hear; “We are doing agile transformation but there are too many meetings!”

Too Many Meetings!

You are in a meeting. There are 100 people in the virtual room. No cameras are switched on. Only two people are arguing about some project scope while 98 forgotten souls are in the room with their mind occupations unknown. The facilitator is full of energy and keeps the timebox. You switch your camera off and check your e-mails until you hear your name. You realize that was not a meeting but a zombie gathering.

You are in another meeting with your team. Everyone is talking about what they did yesterday. The only reason that you are there is because the Agile Coach told you so. You don’t care what your colleagues did yesterday. There is absolutely no impact on what you have been handling business as usual. You want to leave. But you can’t. You realize that was not a meeting but a prison.

You are in another meeting. This time you are forced to switch your camera on. You are eating a cream cheese sandwich. It is a disgusting extravaganza for your colleagues if you switch your camera on. Everyone is complaining about what went wrong and what could have been better. The complaints are so tempting that you interfere and join the commotion. But in the middle of a heated discussion, the timebox of the meeting expires and people start saying “I have another meeting, need to go” in the chat. You wake up in the psychiatrist’s waiting room.

You are in another meeting. They want you to plan 6 months ahead of you. But you are a Service Engineer. You respond to demands. There is nothing to plan. You sit there for a week and play Solitaire. You realize nothing. A week of Solitaire does something to your frontal cortex.

You are in another meeting. You are planning your week, but the facilitator says the time is 4 hours and you need to stay until it expires. You argue that the planning is done but you can’t convince anyone. You sit there in silence with others. No one speaks. No one responds to your questions. You realize that you are in an intergalactic simulation.

You are invited to an on-site workshop. You enter the meeting room full of 30 people. One person is on the stage and reading some stuff on a PowerPoint presentation. The oxygen in the room starts to deplete. You feel sleepy. You start to play Doom on your phone to avoid death. No one cares. You realize that you are inside an e-mail.

You join a company-wide meeting. There are 750 people in the virtual room. It takes 150 minutes for the CEO to stop talking about some buzzwords and hand their voice over to the presenter. You realize it is a generative AI.

You are in another meeting. You are doing pair-programming with your colleague to resolve a difficult problem. You have fun. Your friend is smart, and you learn from each other. You realize that was not a meeting but a nice, productive work-together session.

You are in another meeting. You chit-chat with a friend who you haven’t seen for a while. You spend a handful of 45 minutes talking about your cat. You feel refreshed. You realize that was not a meeting but a nice conversation with a colleague.

Sounds familiar? Especially in post-pandemic, we find ourselves in “meetings” most of the time. Whether it is a chit-chat, a pair-working slot, or a presentation, we don’t care. If there is a virtual room link, it is a meeting.

The most common complaint you might hear; “We are doing agile transformation but there are too many meetings!” Usually in this context, one important thing is missing; no one is talking about the socially awkward and ineffective activities you have been doing for weeks. No one is questioning or reminding of the purpose.

If there is no purpose, no structure, no goal, no agenda, no proper preparation, and no involvement, there will always be “too many meetings”.  

But that is not enough! If the system itself doesn’t allow uncovering the concerning consequences of an ineffective activity, changing a part of it will only make a little difference. The persistent discipline behind the behavioral shift is ignited better by holistic change. That persistence will be magic to unlock the full potential of the organization.  

Dr. Yamaç Kaya

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