A Simple Suggestion for Avoiding Unnecessary Meetings

Ann All
Slide Show

How to Conduct Better Meetings

Surveys have indicated that a typical meeting attendee views them as being 2.3 times as long as they should be. Since meetings are vital to a project's success, the secret lies in simply making them more efficient.

I've made no secret of my general opinion that meetings are often a real drain on productivity. Still, even I concede that some meetings serve important purposes. And I realize most meetings can be vastly improved if organizers simply think through their intended purpose and streamline their agendas and attendee lists.


Unfortunately meeting organizers don't often do this. I suspect the reasons are many, ranging from the innocuous, habit, all the way to the vindictive, payback. But I think many organizers simply err on the side of caution, including folks in invites because they don't want to inadvertently exclude those who might want to attend a meeting. (And some folks do like meetings.)


That's especially true for folks in cross-functional roles, like the hardworking and often beleaguered business analyst. Writing on Bridging the Gap, a blog geared toward BAs and BA-wannabes, Steve Blais notes BAs can often become overwhelmed. Because of the nature of their role, they may find themselves sitting in on meetings with developers, line-of-business managers and even C-level managers.


Blais offers a tip that should dramatically reduce the meeting schedule for BAs and other busy people:

... Contact the moderator of the meeting and ask what [your] purpose would be in attending the meeting. Ostensibly, [you are] checking to see if there is something [you] should bring with [you], or a presentation [you] should be prepared to make, or any other activity that might be expected of [you] concerning the meeting. When the moderator says "no, I just thought you might like to be there," or "I invited everyone on the project mailing list," [you] can ask if it's all right if [you] skip the meeting ...

That's my kind of suggestion. So straightforward, and it puts the responsibility on the moderator to explain why you are needed, rather than making you come up with reasons you likely aren't needed at all. Don't forget to ask the moderator for the minutes, if they are kept and distributed, says Blais. (And they should be if the moderator is interested in running effective meetings, I'd add.)

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