January 12, 2016
IT’S Monday morning at 10 AM. The team drifts in, bringing notebooks and coffee. For ten minutes, we all trade stories about our weekend, the football game, the holidays coming up, all the usual chit chat. We start our weekly update meeting and it feels like Groundhog Day (the movie, not the holiday). The same agenda. The same people going around listing what they did and what they’re going to do next.
Weekly update meetings used to be a staple of the workplace. Before the days of email and before we had collaboration tools, people had to get together in a room or on the phone to keep everyone up to date on projects, communicate new information, and get feedback. Today we have great tools that allow us to do those things in real time without ever entering a conference room. So why do we still have so many recurring update meetings?
We’ve Always Done It This Way – The first reason is that habits are hard to break. Most of the recurring meetings I see in departments have been around for years. When asked why they still meet each week for a conversation that no one enjoys, and that largely exists as a placeholder for updates that could be exchanged via email, people fall back to the habit.
We Need Time Together for Teambuilding – Besides habit, some organizations cling to in-person update meetings as a way of bringing people together. While this is fundamentally true, these meetings don’t accomplish the goal. In fact, wasting time erodes teamwork and makes people feel like their time is not valued.
What Else Should We Do? – This is the truly powerful question, and the right one to ask. In the last ten years, there has been a veritable explosion of collaboration tools. From full-service team solutions like Basecamp and Microsoft SharePoint to single purpose discussion boards and document sharing systems, there are a variety of tools that can be used to coordinate team activities, share information, distribute updates, and ask questions.
But making a decision on which tool to use can be a barrier to getting started, so instead of worrying about making a decision from the pantheon of potential solutions, why not start with email? Change the first habit with a tool you no doubt already have, and then decide what will make the process easier.
Letting go of old habits can be hard, but eliminating things that take away time from your best people without adding value is always a good decision.