But some of the worst encounters are born from the best intentions. In his 1976 superlative treatise on effective communication in the workplace, “How to organize a meetingBritish writer Antony Jay warns of risks such as reluctance to exclude someone from a discussion and waiting for everyone to arrive before going into business. (“There’s only one way to make sure a meeting starts on time, and that’s to start it on time,” Jay wrote.)
In manic detail, Mr. Jay described what seems to the reader something like 500,000 possible permutations of rally type, goals, leadership tactics, discussion structures, seating arrangements, etc., l architecture of hypothetical meetings – each path of which inevitably leads. , to productivity – looking more and more like something out of an Escher lithograph. Yet Mr. Jay is not, by default, pro-rally. A meeting is only justified, he wrote, if the consequences of not holding it are serious enough.
Tsedal Neeley, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, blamed the glut of modern meetings on the assumption that the best way to communicate is verbally.
“All these meetings,” she said, “I bet you, I promise you: 50% of them can go away if people have the courage.
In selecting a communication format, Dr Neeley advised considering two criteria: First, should all parties be present at the same time in the same space to exchange information? Second, will the information be better understood through “lean media” (which is text-based) or “rich media” (which includes non-verbal context)?
Instant messaging apps, Dr Neeley said, are both “synchronous” (designed for simultaneous participation) and “lean” (mostly text-based), making them ideal for simple coordination. Whether held in person or via video chat, she said, meetings are synchronous and rich – and they’re ideal for tasks involving complex coordination and negotiation.
A meeting can be good, in short, but only if it has to be a meeting.
Consultative meetings should be restricted, said Dr Neeley – no more than six people, to reduce the risk of “social laziness”, which people attend but do not participate in the meeting.