You hear the most interesting things on an airplane. There I was, making my way back home after a week of business travel. I was shoe-horned into a packed flight on a Boeing 737, listening to a group of three guys seated behind me talking about their workplace. (Yeah, I was eavesdropping. It’s nearly impossible not to given how close together airplane rows have become.)
From what I gather, all three of these guys worked for the same company. Not sure of the industry, but sounded like a place where there were engineers, designers and salespeople. So, pretty much your everyday company, perhaps a design firm or a manufacturer of some sort.
I dialed into the conversation when one of the men (I think it was guy #2) started bemoaning the fact that nobody in his department held each other accountable. It sounded like deadlines were slipping and nobody was talking to each other, trying to uncover the reason for people failing to meet their agreed upon deliverables.
What follows is my recollection of their conversation:
Guy #1: “So, what is it you guys are doing every Monday in Conference Room 12?”
Guy #2: “Huh?”
Guy #1: “You know, every Monday, when all the engineers go up into the conference room on the mezzanine . . . are you having a weekly department meeting or something?”
Guy #2: “Nah. In the four years I’ve worked here, we’ve only had like, three department meetings.”
Guy #3: “Yeah, the only time we ever had a department meeting was when the power went out and we didn’t have anything else to do, so we all stood around and talked about whether or not we should go home.”
Guy #2: (to Guy #1): “So, what? Do you guys have lots of meetings or something?”
Guy #1: “Well, not a ton of meetings, but we do have a weekly department meeting – you know, to review sales numbers, production updates and son on. Just so that we all know what’s going on.”
Guy #2: “Do people hold each other accountable in your department?”
Guy #1: “Yeah, actually, we do. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing and we aren’t afraid to confront someone if they aren’t pulling their weight.”
Guy #2 (sounding baffled): “Huh.”
Now, I know we can all tell horror stories about workplace meetings that are boring, poorly run or just plain pointless. But this conversation had me wondering – what’s the tipping point for meeting frequency?
Who runs the better department – those who eschew nearly all meetings, or those who run them wisely and with purpose?
Want more ideas on how to run effective meetings? Check out my “meetings” tag here on The People Equation or my contributions to the topic of meetings on the HR Expert page on Answers.com.