Why am I always in meetings?

Sometimes it feels like we have back to back meetings scheduled every hour, on the hour, for the rest of our lives! When you take a look at the type of meetings you are in how many are actually there to get work done? How many are with internal co-workers compared to customers or external partners and suppliers. Often meetings are for internal approvals, decision making and information sharing. While this work is important, why did we need to have ten people in a room to approve something that really could have been handled by a single person. Worse still, because everyone feels like they have to have their say the end answer becomes a compromise of people from different departments that have multiple agendas.

The main reason we have so many meetings is because we are organized based on vertical functional silos, sales, marketing, service, support, distribution, this means to make decisions or gain approvals we need to include representatives from many different functional departments. This becomes amplified if your organization is risk adverse, or if failure is not tolerated, because people do not want to take responsibility for another department’s decision. Therefore, they will send emails to cover themselves or organize meetings to make sure the relevant department signs off on the proposal so that if anything goes wrong it is not their fault.

Of course if functional departments cannot agree on a proposal and it needs to be escalated we end up with even more meetings such as briefing our bosses before they meet with their counterparts. With escalations there is this natural decision equilibrium point where the decision ends up at a certain level within the organization because to go any higher is asking the senior levels to make a decisions that they should be capable of doing. It gets embarrassing. In this case it bounces back and forth between the lateral departments until some compelling event comes along and a compromise is made. Again this compromise may not be the best outcome for the organization or the customers.

The other consequence of so many internal meetings is that the leadership and support roles gained by vertical leverage breaks down as management time is consumed being the escalation and coordination processes of the horizontal workflow.

The saddest thing is that because we have spent all of our working hours in meetings we have to use the weekends and evenings to get the actual work done.