My Agile Life: Meetings

(This column is posted at, Steve’s LinkedIn, and Steve’s Tumblr)

More on my use of “Agile” and Scrum in my life!  This is another one inspired by my personal agile, but a bit more focused on business.

Meetings are why we can’t reduce meetings.

I find my personal practice of Agile – with a one-man team – informing me about my work in the business world. Since I do all roles, since all information flows to and through me, I actually have a decent feel of what productivity is like because of personal Agile. Thanks to this experience, I can better see when things are messed up in the business world.

Lately, this reasonably decent personal workflow has made me see just how crazy meetings can make us. Trying to schedule them in my own life is tough enough; and then when you look at the job world . . .

We’re drowning in meetings. Sure we complain, but we keep doing them over and over again. We know they waste time. We know people don’t want to be there. We know the people on either side of us are checking Facebook.


Meetings are terribly inefficient, at least in the way they’re run. If you invite 20 people to a meeting that’s an hour long and each person gets 10 minutes of benefit out of it, then you spend 1200 minutes so people get 200 minutes of benefit. Sure, they may multitask and do other things, but they won’t do it well as if they were focused.


I could list any number of reasons why pointless meetings are held, but I want to share a realization of why we don’t stop this insanity.

There are clear solutions to reducing, avoiding, or improving meetings. I’m sure three or four spring to mind as you read this, such as information radiators and quick check-ins. Despite having these clear solutions, we do not use them, and we’re back to 20 people in a room hating it.

Frustrating, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ve tried.

Having worked to transform teams, improve process, and so on, I’m painfully aware that any attempts to change how people work takes time and effort. It also takes meetings, because you have to coordinate, plan, normalize, and so on. Getting rid of meetings . . . may take meetings.

That’s the bogeyman under the bed of meeting-reduction. If we want to get rid of meetings, we have to make an up-front effort to do so, and that effort may require meetings. People don’t want to do these meetings, and might not even have time for them.

We can’t reduce meetings because of all the meetings we have.

Really, it’s enough to drive one to drink. I recommend Licor 43.

What’s the way forward here? In the past, I resorted to either incremental changes or just barreling ahead. My personal Agile work helps as it provides me a lot of gut-level explanations and insights (like this) to share with people, which helps the situation. I’m hoping this personal insight helps people get around meeting-phobia.

But at some point, you’re gonna have to have that meeting. To stop meetings.

Yeah, I know.

(By the way I do plenty of books for coaching people to improve in various areas, which may also help you out!)

– Steve