The non-meeting

What would it be like to live in a world without meetings filling up our workdays?

What if you could just… not meet?

Here are some alternatives to the typical meeting.

MBWA. Management by wandering around. This is communicating with people offline all the time. It might not save you time, but it’s more pleasurable and it might be more effective. Some people don’t pipe up in group meetings, but they might be more willing to talk one on one.

Take it outside. If it’s not freezing or sleeting, can you take a walk around the block? Meet at the corner cafe? Do it over lunch? During a run before or after work?

Initiate a contest or challenge. That’s right, make a game of it. Can the team make good decisions with sound rationale in 10-15 minutes every day for a week? Show me you can do so and still be effective, and happy hour is on the department every Friday for the next month.

Go with big time recognition. Cut the “status update” meetings, and instead, promote one big team win to the rest of the organization, or send out an APB for colleagues’ help on a problem instead. This generates huge participation and recognition, as well as motivates others to deliver results regularly rather than provide updates on progress regularly.

Stage your emails to replace a live meeting. Use the fantastic tools in Outlook or other email programs to set up, or stage, your emails. Use the subject line effectively – for example “Action Needed,” then use tools like voting buttons (there are voting buttons??? Yes, there are!) for people to click and get it off their to-do list.

Use “optional” invitations appropriately. Come on, is everyone really required for that meeting? How about this instead: make people optional to participate live, but solicit the 2-3 questions or comments they would like to toss into the ring. Make it a trade-off: I’ll let you off the hook for the live meeting, but you must still provide XYZ beforehand or you need to be OK with the decision coming out of it.

And my personal favorite – force the drive-by conversation. I used to block off time in my calendar all the time for my own work, so if people wanted to talk to me and they opened up the calendar to find a time, it was really hard. They had to decide – do I forgo a formal meeting and make a judgment on my own (no problem with that, in my opinion), do I call her to make a meeting work somehow (forcing additional action on their part), or do I just walk over and try to grab a minute with her in person to get to a decision on how to proceed without setting time aside on the calendar?

Do you know how many decisions were made from that last type of action? Oh my God, SO MANY. And it was fantastic.

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