No Meetings Fridays Don't Solve The Problem

I was at Shaw Communications when I first experienced “No Meetings Fridays”, and I realized how stupid an idea it really is.

I’m going to keep this short: removing a day from being able to meet with others doesn’t solve the problem. There needs to be fewer meetings.

We’ve become overly dependent on meetings to solve two things: communication and decision-making. That’s not to say that meetings aren’t valuable for these things, but we’ve been increasingly trending too much on communication time, which is where all the burn time comes from.

Communication is critical to business operations, and the bigger you are, the more important the communication is clear, consistent, and understandable. But it also needs to be brief, and that’s where we’re having problems – we talk too much.

People are busy, and the more time people are spending in meetings means that work that needs to be done isn’t going to get done. Keep people out of meetings so they can get work done. That doesn’t mean pulling a day away from them, because those meetings just get crammed into every other day, and then suddenly people are asking for “emergency exceptions” because meetings take up so much time.

We need to think more:

  1. Can this meeting be an email? This is a one-way broadcast of a thought. If yes, great, carefully write an email.
  2. Can this be a group chat? Hey, we’ve got the tools, let’s use them. This is when you need non-urgent collaboration. People can usually manage this in their tasks.
  3. Can this be done in half the time? Odds are, it can. Too often, people think they need an engaging meeting, rather one with a clear agenda and with clear outcomes. Odds are, if you plan that meeting well, it’ll finish faster with more information.
  4. Standups are 15 minutes, max. I don’t care how big your team is. (If it’s too big for a 15 minute meeting, maybe you have too big a team to manage at that level.)

This is something I’m pressing hard at work: I want fewer, shorter meetings. And I know I’m not alone.