Meetings in the age of working out loud

Working out loud is typically looked at from the point of view of the person doing the work out loud, with tips and ideas on how to work out loud more effectively. But it is also important for those who are “consuming” this out loud work to understand the process and how they can leverage it in their own work. No one has more to gain, and probably more to learn, from working out loud than the managers of those doing the work. Consider, for example, meetings.

meetings500

Meetings, in general, assume that the process of work is hidden and that the only thing that matters are the results or, in many cases, the current state of the work. So managers will call meetings, or even worse schedule recurring meetings on a regular basis. These meetings are often set for an hour, because that is the default in Outlook and generally the time blocks by which conference rooms are scheduled.

What other factors do you take into account when you plan / schedule a meeting? Some items might include:

  • Agenda

Actually, if you don’t count the availability of a conference room, the only real consideration in the scheduling of most meetings is the agenda, even though it is more likely than not that the agenda is more an outline or a “let’s go around the room so everyone can fill everyone else in on what they have been working on”.  The “this is what we’re going to talk about” gets a lot of attention, the “what do we want to achieve” gets a bit less, and the “how does this contribute to our work” gets barely any attention at all.

When, of course, the most important aspect of meetings, the easiest to measure, and the most overlooked – dare I say ignored – is the bottom line. The value of the meeting. (Not just the cost, but the return you get on paying that cost.)

From the book ReWork:

When you think about it, the true cost of meetings is staggering. Let’s say you’re going to schedule a meeting that lasts one hour, and you invite ten people to attend. That’s actually a ten-hour meeting, not a one-hour meeting. Your trading ten hours of productivity for one hour of meeting time. And it’s probably more like fifteen hours, because there are mental switching costs that come with stopping what you’re doing, going somewhere else to meet, and then resuming what you were doing beforehand.

Which doesn’t take into account the productivity loss for the time required to prepare for the meeting, type up and distribute notes, etc….

When it is possible to work out loud, however, the work is not (need not be) hidden and the current state of work, along with all of the context that goes with it, is readily available to all who may need to see it. Including managers. But this requires a change in how managers approach management, and how they interact with the people who report to them.

Instead of asking to be “kept in the loop” through individual emails or by scheduling meetings, it becomes incumbent on the manager to ensure that their employees are working out loud and that they, the manager, keep themselves in the loop.

Thinking in bits isn’t just about changing the way we design forms to collect information or using fancy techniques to push customized content to our users. It also has far reaching implications and potential in how we design our work and the organizations in which we perform that work.

 

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