Your Status Meetings Are Against the Law


“Let’s go around the room and get everyone’s updates.  Fred, we’ll start with you.”

Similar to the deafening roar emitted from race cars immediately following the “start your engines” announcement at the track, the words above are a virtual guaranteed trigger for everyone but Fred in the status meeting to open their phones or laptops and zone out.

In 1955 Cyril Parkinson published an adage, now known as Parkinson’s Law, about work that is worth considering in the context of this discussion.  Parkinson’s Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Meetings are the primary forum in which marketing and media professionals work, especially in virtual environments.  Think of the weekly status meeting.  At least one is on every professional’s schedule; 30 minutes, 60 minutes or, God forbid, sometimes 90 minutes.  The implications for lost productivity are frightening.

Status meetings are a waste of time because the information could more easily and efficiently be shared in writing.  The time tested status report is still the best way to relay updates on projects.  Sadly often leaders compound the Parkinson’s Law violation by scheduling status meetings to review status reports with the team.  (I’ve made this mistake myself as a leader in the past.)

The only reasons to have meetings are to solve problems, provide feedback, collaborate creatively (brainstorm) or reinforce/inspire culture.  None of those objectives are met by “going around the room” collecting updates while those not speaking check their phones.  Sometimes one of those goals can be accomplished in a status meeting, but it’s more accidental than by design.

My advice is to replace your weekly status with obstacles/opportunities meetings.  Set a clear agenda in advance.  Ask all participants to come prepared to share one obstacle to achieving a goal that requires the group’s help to solve.  Or they can bring a potential opportunity to brainstorm with the group, such as how improve a product, customer service or operational workflow.  This would be a much more efficient and effective use of everyone’s time.  Better yet, cancel the meeting entirely and give people valuable time back to actually do work.

If you remain skeptical that Parkinson’s Law applies to your status meetings, try halving the time allotted.  My guess is the participants will be pleased and you won’t feel any less informed.  For something really bold,  make all the participants stand (admittedly not as easy to do remotely).  People are much more likely to pay attention and shorten their presentations to the essential priorities.

We’ve redefine “normal” so much in the past 90 days and learned how productive people can be working virtually.  Just imagine what could be accomplished if the new normal included no more useless status meetings?







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