At RaderCo, we've surveyed companies for a decade with our Productivity and Health Scorecard. Not one company has believed that they have an effective meeting culture. Meetings are consistently deemed as the biggest timesuck in an organization.
Employees complain that meetings are disruptive, include too many people, are redundant, and admit to multi-tasking during many of them. When many of us went remote, it became even worse. Since there was no conference room to hold ten people, we could invite them all! That 5-minute chat that you would have had in person is now a scheduled 30-minute video call, and as Parkinson's Law states, you will use all the time that you schedule.
TechSmith did an experiment where they had no internal meetings in July 2022 (external and interviewing were allowed) to see what would happen and how people felt. The results weren't surprising to me, but they may be to you. And for a bit of background first, TechSmith is a video technology company with 300 employees. They were founded about 35 years ago, and their environment is hybrid/remote.
Asynchronous communication – one way through writing, pre-recorded video, or voice message. The focus is on productivity.
Synchronous communication – real-time via phone, video, or instant chat channel. The focus is on speed.
TechSmith set up a committee to prepare for Async-July that included seven people. This follows the Rule of Seven to keep meetings to seven people or fewer. Any over that decreases decision-making by 10%.
At the end of their experiment, 15% strongly agreed to an increase in productivity. A whopping 85% of employees will reconsider replacing future meetings with asynchronous communication. I encourage you to read the full report.
TechSmith wasn't testing to see if they could go completely meeting-free because that could be isolating and discourage collaboration. However, it forced them to reevaluate their current meeting culture. It's like burning the house down. Would you rebuild it the same? If you had to completely start over your business, what would you remove and what would you keep?
Manager vs. Maker
Paul Graham wrote one of the best articles in July 2009, long before we were Zoom Zombies, on what a maker needs versus a manager. Makers need uninterrupted time to code, develop, problem-solve, write, etc. Managers expect interruptions and can often juggle tasks more quickly because many tasks may not require 15-20 minutes to go into deep work mode. Companies don't usually respect the makers when creating their meeting cultures.
Considering async communication or limiting meetings allows people to work when they work best. I don't want meetings early – it's Marcey Morning Magic time. I also don't like meetings late in the day when I'm tired, and I'll just resort to status quo decisions. In other words, after 4:30pm, don't make me think.
One of our top RaderCo clients implemented a meeting reset last year. The entire company attended training, and we completed an exercise of reviewing calendars a month out and removing redundant or unnecessary meetings, got clarification on meetings we were invited to but weren't sure why, removed people from invite lists that were nice-to-have instead of necessary, and shortened all meetings to 45-50 minutes or less. Read the case study here.
At RaderCo, we have multiple ways to reduce meetings and embrace async communication to increase productivity and promote a healthy tech-life balance.
Ways to reduce meetings:
Use video capture software – I detail how we use Loom in this blog post and podcast, but to say I use it at least once a day is not an exaggeration. It saves a ton of time when explaining something that requires showing my thoughts – edits to my website pages, moving within multiple documents with comments, describing a process, or providing training. I also use it to talk through my proposals so the person I had the Discovery Call with doesn't have to remember everything we went over when they take my proposal to their team. They can just forward my 4-6 minute video walking them through it. We also use ClickUp, our project management system, to record videos within the tool. I've also started playing around with Scribe. Whatever you use, it needs to be easy and an extension that people can quickly click on and create a screen capture. They shouldn't have to open up a Zoom or Teams video.
ClickUp Chat*: We never use email internally with our core team and use as little as possible with our contractors. All communication is done in ClickUp via comments. The tool allows for voice, video, or written messages.
Voxer – this is a life-saver from a productivity perspective. It's a walkie-talkie app that we use for clarifications, and when it's just plain easier to say it verbally than write it down. I'm a talker, and so is my Concierge (aka my bestie), and we know that if we were to get on the phone, we could get carried away talking about non-work-related stuff. Voxer messages keep us from doing that. It's for work only. I also use this to communicate with most of my coaches to give background on clients, discuss schedules, and give updates. They can listen and respond when it's convenient for them.
Consider limiting or eliminating your meetings for one month. Burn down your meeting culture and rebuild it. If you need help with this endeavor, contact us at helloraderco.com. We can provide consulting on implementing a meeting reset pilot, training on effective meetings, and resources to ensure that your scorecard will no longer say you have an inefficient meeting culture.