Meeting hell

Another meeting which could have been an email – that’s my favorite nag about a meeting hell.

You know it. You know it well. You just want to sit and code, you want to focus for an hour or two and produce some value for the company, for the customers, for the world. Then it shows up. An Outlook reminder. In 15 minutes there will be a meeting. You’re done. You don’t even try to start work anymore because you know it’s impossible to proceed. Time is too short.

The meeting takes five minutes to even begin. Joe comes from another meeting and it took longer than expected so he’s late. Jane is in the toilet. Mark is always late.

During the meeting, you listen to a lot of stuff which doesn’t bother you at all. It’s just a problem which affects two or three people out of eight or ten gathered in a tiny room with not enough air (by the way – this lack of oxygen can affect you).

Finally, you go out of the meeting and it’s lunchtime. After lunch, you’re a bit sleepy and it takes another 30 minutes until the blood will come back to your brain from the stomach.

Half of a day is gone.

Meetings are necessary. Effective organization of them is rare, however. Probably there are some atavistic mechanisms that make us prone to long pointless discussions. As far as I noticed it’s just a lack of emphasis put on the effectiveness of the process of knowledge exchange.

How can we avoid fluff? In some cases it’s tough. But more often than not we can ask ourselves some helpful questions: 
– does the topic require all attendants to be present at the meeting?
– are we prepared for the meeting?
– do we have an agenda?
– is everybody interested and do they need to attend?
– do we need to make a decision quickly or we can use e-mail instead of a meeting room?

Additionally, I would say that boring meetings are a soul-crushing experience. Therefore I would add a few more:
– is the pace of the meeting not too slow, sleepy?
– is the pace of the meeting too fast, too stressful?
– aren’t we too serious?
– aren’t we too much relaxed and offtopic?
– do we take breaks?
– don’t we have too many people in the room?

I believe that minimizing the number of meetings and effectively organizing them can be an amazing improvement in the workplace of a developer. Mental energy sucked by boring, long, nasty meetings organized in crowded rooms is the most precious asset brought by a software engineer to the company. We should take care of this thing. It creates software. It writes code. This energy runs the business. If we drain it we can have huge problems.

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