Richard Branson’s answer to this is 5- to 10-minute meetings for a single topic and he is in favour of not only stand-up meetings but also walking meetings outside the office.
Has he ever noticed the climate in the UK? The management team leaves the office and walks into the usual summer day, involving lashing rain and winds so strong that no one can hear what anyone else is saying. Everyone returns the office wet and cold, and the next week they are all off sick.
A walking meeting is also unlikely to take five minutes – this is just enough time to go down in the lift, do a lap of the smokers’ area, and get back to your desk. He quotes strolling around the canals of Little Venice as his favourite walking meeting. This may come as a surprise to the Virgin entrepreneur but not everyone works in London and has a handy canal to ramble along while discussing international finance.
This leaves the rest of us with the local park. Five minutes after the off, the head of HR will be having a hay fever attack and the recruitment coordinator’s sciatica will have kicked in. The HR assistant will have tripped over a kerb while trying to walk along reading out the agenda and will be logging a working time injury as soon as she is back in the office, with at least six weeks off to rest up that ankle.
Standing up meetings inside the office are not a bad idea; however, Gary’s five-a-side injury, sustained in the corporate league, means he is on crutches; Gill is seven months pregnant with twins; Sarah has arthritis; and Julio’s back locks if he stands still. Never mind, the manager can stand up and talk while they sit. This seems to be going well until Sarah comments in a meaningful undertone that they are being talked down to.
The bearded one has further business advice. He says that PowerPoint presentations listing what someone is about to say are a complete no-no. He wants an emphasis on real communication in the meeting.
When has this ever been the point of a meeting? We have a communication manager and staff toilets for finding stuff out. The point of a meeting is for everyone to be reminded of what it is they particularly dislike about their colleagues; when they get back to their desks, they are motivated to work harder to get promoted/made redundant/relocated/offered a job with another organisation.
The highest form of meeting is therefore the teleconference, at which everyone can pretend to be listening to a report on recruitment while polishing up their CV, browsing job sites, planning their holiday, and other useful tasks that are annoyingly difficult to achieve in a face-to-face meeting, whether this takes place standing up or walking.
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