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The shortest meeting


When not managed properly, meetings compete rigorously with email for the title of greatest time wasters.

There are hundreds of books written on how to better manage a meeting. Unfortunately all of them make the faulty assumption that sitting around a table discussing and deciding is a requirement for a meeting.

One of the most effective game changers I have seen in the meeting space is what my Dutch boss did when I was working in the Netherlands. We would start a Monday morning with a cup of coffee while the ten of us would update each other on what we were doing, make decisions for the week ahead and ask for support from each other.

This sounds pretty normal behaviour until I point out that we did that while standing up. It's amazing how focused everyone gets when they are not comfortably lounging in a seat around a cozy table. In fact it turns out that sitting around a table is one of the worst ways to stimulate creative thought, something most meetings could do with a lot more of.

The best thing is that you don't need to read a book to try this out. Do everything you normally do in a meeting except do it standing up. Standing creates a shift in the energy of your meeting. It is also guaranteed to be shorter.

A sobering thought for those who organise meetings is the observation from Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister (Peopleware, 1999) that most meetings are a ceremony to reassure the organisers' ego rather than an opportunity for people to get together and collaborate. True collaboration most often happens in an ad hoc manner rather than a scheduled meeting.

Standing meetings are crisper and more

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