Stuff not going well? Hold a meeting, right?

Meetings are sometimes held around conference ...

This one's designed to fail. Image via Wikipedia

It’s pretty well established that there is little accomplished at most meetings. But we keep holding them, and often in place of taking the real action necessary to fix a situation.

If you hold a meeting, then it looks and feels – even to ourselves – as if something is being accomplished. Meetings are often a forum for a person in power to express their side of the story, but not much more.

The problem is that what we say is not often particularly related to what we do. Those in power are particularly susceptible as their knowledge of what is happening on the ground conflicts with their “vision” of what it should be. This cognitive dissonance is painful, and is normally addressed by….you guessed it…holding a meeting.

There, I have explained my position and what needs to be done, now all my faithful underlings will go out and execute, right? Uh, no.

I am reminded of a hilarious quote from my time as an Army officer when I was working for a Brigade Commander. This gem came from a company commander, two levels below the Brigade commander in an Echelons Above Corps (EAC) unit. Upon receiving a particularly random order sent down the chain that seemed innocuous enough that, in reality, would impose a significant investment in preparation time, and no discernible benefit except to satisfy the ego at the top, said “Colonel X is Echelons Above Reality.”

I thought of all this while reading an article about why the NCAA (the one sports governing body that may be able to beat FIFA in the hypocrisy and corruption titles) needs to stop holding meetings and take action. Check it out here.

In reality, there are times when meetings are appropriate. When disparate groups that would otherwise not communicate well come together to solve a particular problem, no one pontificates, and the meeting is kept very narrowly focused, they can work. However, in my experience, that happens less than 25% of the time.


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