... I'm now thinking of doing something more drastic: issuing an out-and-out ban on all regular meetings. The weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings that teams and departments have would be outlawed, although I might permit meetings on an occasional basis to discuss specific and urgent issues.
Does anyone have any experience to suggest whether such a scheme might work?
Read what Lucy Kellaway, "agony-aunt" of the Financial Times (London), answered:
I know of only one company where there are no meetings at all - Craigslist in California. The ban works well there, but I'm not sure that it would help you much. Craigslist is a peculiar sort of company that doesn't employ any of the sorts of people who are fondest of meetings - there is no HR department and no marketing department. Almost everyone is a geeky engineer, happier sending emails than meeting humans.
The reason meetings are impossible to eliminate in most normal offices is that people rather like them, or at least they like hating them. Meetings are, of course, almost entirely useless. They are inefficient as a way of sharing information and clumsy as a way of making decisions. Still, none of that is the point. Most of us are incapable of working intensively for anything like a full working day, so meetings are as good a way as any of using up fallow time and introducing breaks. The problem, as you say, is to stop them taking up so much time that no real work happens at all. The answer, most readers suggest, is to remove the chairs from meeting rooms. This sounds like an excellent idea, but there must be something wrong with it, as although everyone has talked about it for years, no one actually practises it. I've never been to a stand-up meeting in my life.
I suggest going the other way. Make routine meetings even more comfortable by holding them over lunch. This means you can only have one a day. The more convivial nature of meeting over food also makes clear that the point is mainly social - that you expect real work to be done elsewhere.
Alternatively you could ration meetings through space. Cut down by half the number of meeting rooms in the building (which would also save money) and then institute a booking system with rooms only available in half-hour lumps. Any such scheme is better than an outright ban.
You've missed the chance to play hard cop by having attempted to be soft cop first and failing. Once you've tried to be nice, being nasty doesn't really work, and both end up looking feeble.
Aus: The Financial Times, London. www.ft.com