I think I’ve finally figured out why we hate meetings so much and how we got here. Let’s go back to the industrial economy for a second. Leadership in the industrial economy was pretty simple. You looked after process and the process got you results. Life was pretty unambiguous, process was known and clear and life was simple. As a result you didn’t need a lot of meetings and the ones you did need were probably pretty well defined.
Fast forward to the knowledge economy and things aren’t so simple. Software has taken away a lot of our process work and left us having to face new challenges at a steadily increasing rate. Without process responsibilities, our work is now about getting results and those results are often hard to measure and poorly defined. There is a radical increase in ambiguity.
So take a problem to solve that requires a meeting. You’re already stressed from having too much to do. There isn’t a process in place or the process would have run its course and solved the problem. It isn’t clear what results are required or who has responsibility.
The net effect is discomfort. We don’t like ambiguity, lack of clarity, unmeasurable results, unclear lines of control and yet all of that is what today’s meetings are about. We don’t hate meetings because they are meetings. We hate what we’re trying to do in those meetings: resolve multiple simultaneous ambiguities.