​Management: Meetings as a herald of deficiency

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF MANAGEMENT

A common time-waster in the modern day’s corporation is malorganization. Its symptom is an excess of meetings. Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization for, one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time. In an ideally designed structure (which in a changing world is of course only a dream) there would be no meetings. Everybody would know what he needs to know to do his job. Everyone would have the resources available to him to do his job. We meet because people holding different jobs have to cooperate to get a specific task done. We meet because the knowledge and experience needed in a specific situation are not available in one head, but have to be pieced together out of the experience and knowledge of several people.

There will always be more than enough meetings. Organization will always require so much working together that the attempts of well-meaning behavioral scientists to create opportunities for “cooperation” may be somewhat redundant. But if executives in an organization spend more than a fairly small part of their time in meeting, it is a sure sign of malorganization. Every meeting generates a host of little follow-up meetings —some formal, some informal, but both stretching out for hours. Meetings, therefore, need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger. But above all, meetings have to be the exception rather than the rule.

An organization in which everybody meets all the time is an organization in which no one gets anything done. Wherever a time log shows the fatty degeneration of meetings—whenever, for instance, people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more—there is time-wasting malorganization. 

As a rule, meetings should never be allowed to become the main demand on an executive’s time. Too many meetings always bespeak poor structure of jobs and the wrong organizational components. Too many meetings signify that work that should be in one job or in one component is spread over several jobs or several components. They signify that responsibility is diffused and that information is not addressed to the people who need it.

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