Recently I read an article about the (alleged) fall of Holacracy and one part related to meetings draw my attention. I’m interested in the topic of meetings efficiency for quite a long time. It reminded me of a novel way of facilitating a meeting that I witnessed during a Sociocracy 3.0 training some time ago. What I read in the article somehow resonated with my own feelings and thoughts.

But let me start with the prevalent opinion about meetings nicely expressed by this tweet:

Surprised? I guess not. I know many people who think that “meeting = waste of time”(And BTW. my observation is, that the same people who complain about the meetings, act themselves in a way, which makes meetings a nightmare.)

Now, if you search for it, you will find a gazillion of advises on how to make meetings more efficient.

…but what actually happens when you try to squeeze the time spent on meeting to minimum aiming at making them as productive as possible? People should be happy, right? Hmm… not so fast. Read this quote from the aforementioned article:

As Zappos onboarded its employees to the system over the past four years, one of the biggest complaints, far and away, was around the rigid meeting format, which provides the guardrails for the system. Tactical meetings […] tightly govern how and when employees can speak up. The meetings, which typically are held once a week, open with a check-in round and then dive into checklists and metrics. […] there is “no discussion” during the check-in and closing rounds. In other words, there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection. No small talk.

Whoa, wait! That is really interesting, isn’t it? At one hand people are tired with meeting taking too long and often not bringing expected results. They are dead tired with some talkative assholes who waste time of everyone in the room. They want to reach decision quickly and go back to their work, right? They would love to end the endless debates and discussion.

And what happens when you actually give it to them? They are disappointed because “there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection” .

I find this really intriguing. Recently, when trying to start the process of effectiveness reviews, I experimented with strict facilitation rules (rounds & no discussion & no preamble). And I felt that some participants were not enjoying this formula (even if they witnessed its effectiveness). I wonder if what I try to achieve is so much against our human nature (and thus destined to fail) or maybe – and this is what I hope for – it is only an initial pain of doing things in a new way? Will see about this. 

As for now, my plan is to have the following deal with meeting participants:

  • during meetings, we get rid of “human element” as much as possible – we aim at efficiency,
  • after the meeting is finished then whoever feels like he wants to socialize does so (and let me tell you that our office provides plenty of ways to socialize!).

Would that work? Or maybe we are so used to the fact that the meetings are about socializing and small talk, and endless discussions that we won’t let it go no matter what?