Meetingitis: the illness of the 21st century 

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Editor’s note: Today we would like to welcome a new author: José Miguel Torres works as a software engineer for Xamarin Inc. and specializes in mobile app development. With more than 14 years’ experience, he is a regular author for more than 10 years in technical journals where he has published numerous articles on Microsoft technology and is author of two books. He has been recognized as Microsoft Most Value Professional on four occasions. He maintains the web devoted to development for mobile devices desarrolloMobile.NET. Welcome, José Miguel! :)

An effective meeting is short, productive, and doesn't have to be face-to-face.Have you ever asked yourself what are meetings for? Well, most times, for nothing. It’s simply a pretext of the “organizer”, almost always represented by the boss or area manager, and doesn’t do anything but embellish the lack of leadership.

Apparently the official notification sent by email for a specific time on a given day is the solution, as it seems that face-to-face meetings around a round table packed with people with subjective conclusions is the most effective way to solve problems.

Current context

Let’s look at it from another point of view. I daily attend a place called “the office” where the company tries, in most cases, to make it so that work is a pleasant and productive place to be. However, it would be more pleasant if I didn’t have to invest more than two hours each day in going to and from it to attend meetings when in most cases, things could be solved quicker and better by digital means. And it would be more productive if they let us work.

Yes, you understood me, let us work, and I define work as being the action of performing one or several tasks in a structured and continuous manner, i.e. without distractions. And no, when I say distractions I don’t mean reading the sports results or updating your Twitter account with your thoughts, all that is the cigarette break of the 21st century, or perhaps it is worse to tweet than smoke? For some companies it is, and they are not Chinese companies.

However, they don’t hesitate when calling a meeting for 10 people when the cause and the effect in all meetings are always the same.

The Cause: They call us to a meeting due to a lack of coordination or communication with a client or department, and the organizer wants to exert their authority by investing 10 hours of the employees in the company. Yes, 10 people during 1 hour in basic arithmetic is 10 hours, and it means cutting short the tasks that each and every one of them were working on, as the meeting is urgent, like they always are.

The Effects: The meeting has gone on until 3 in the afternoon, some of the attendees haven’t had time even for breakfast, many of them –me included– already say yes to anything and everything just to get out of the meeting room. The Cause continues to be the same, but more Causes that provoke the original Cause have been detected. Obviously, the Boss exerts his authority once again and calls as many meetings as new causes that have been detected. The problem or the cause has not been resolved, but the boss is on it. Now we are really worried.

We’re in a new era, aren’t we?

I understand that there are reasons in which we must solve or coordinate a situation that requires the collaboration of two or more people, but nobody is able to justify to me why a (mandatory) face-to-face meeting is better than an email, nor why my attendance during 3 hours is required, if my intervention can be summed up in 15 minutes, nor why I can’t participate using Social Communication tools, or even, if the situation requires it, for a conference call, nor what the numerous doodles on our notebooks or on the meeting room whiteboard are actually for. Couldn’t they be digitalized and shared on a digital collaborative platform?

Leveraging digital platforms in companies helps to improve and optimize internal communications, reduces infrastructure costs considerably, and improves the information flow to and from the company, among its employees and with suppliers and customers. Flexi-time and telecommuting are a reality today that any company can put into practice with platforms like Zyncro. Strict working hours, forced interruptions, and unending work meetings are a thing of the past.

Is your company suffering from meetingitis? Dont you think it’s time to take some digital medication to cure it?