Too many meetings

Over the last 8 years I have come to hate meetings.

In the bureaucratic, red tape culture of higher education it becomes impossible to drink coffee without having a meeting. I have also found that over 90% of those meetings are completely useless.

Meetings for brain-storming, meetings for status updates, meetings for making decisions, meetings for gathering requirements, meetings for communicating whatever, etc, etc, etc.

Inefficiencies at its peak.

Having worked with the Japanese who are very big on meetings, I have tried daily update meetings with my staff to get a grasp on operations as well as looking to build a tight relationship with the team members, but unfortunately not very productive.

Being an efficiency freak I needed to cut down on the number of meetings, reclaiming 90% of my time and letting the techs do what they do best which is to solve problems.

Last year I adopted a process known as the “5-15 Report” invented by Yvon Chouinard and described in a great book I read – Growing a Business by Paul Hawken.

The 5-15 report is a powerful tool which allows you to cut meetings, keep a team on task, allows everyone to acknowledge what they have accomplished and what they would like to change.

The 5-15 should take no longer than 15 minutes to write and 5 minutes to read.

Anatomy of a report :

  • A simple description of what you did during the week
  • A blunt and frank description of the department’s/team morale
  • One idea that will improve your job and/or organization

Not bad but why stop there. If efficiency is the ultimate goal, there is always a way to do something better and faster.

Even though the report might take 15 minutes to write in theory, gathering data on the events during the week might well take those 15 minutes or more. Being able to provide one updates in few words as the week progresses would make these reports real-time, ease the burden of having to gather the data and not spend 15 to 20 minutes writing the report.

First we used message boards for help, then we used 1-on-1 instant messaging and now we move to microblogging. Yammer is a twitter for businesses applying the messaging system to internal corporate communications. Anybody with a company e-mail can sign up and follow others in the company.