If I had a magic wand and could change two things in how organisations operate, I would love to reinvent how most organisations approach meetings and decision making. In my experience, these are the two biggest time wasters in organisations. I would often hear from colleagues and friends “I’ve had such a busy day, week, month… and don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything.” Or “I’ve spent all my week in meetings, I don’t have time to actually do the work” Or “I’ve been waiting for a decision for ages and I can’t believe they made that call.”
Slow and partial decisions
No wonder… if senior leaders, particularly in matrixed or hierarchical structures, are making most of the decisions because they are the only ones at the top where the reporting lines converge and therefore the only ones with visibility of how the decision impacts all parts of the organization, they are only ever going to have a limited amount of time, and appreciation of the complexity of the issue, to consider the proposals and reach a decision.
In a complex world, the hierarchy turns into a bottleneck.
Meetings for meeting's sake
As I think about all the meetings I’ve been in… in my whole life – would it add up to months or years? Were those heartbeats well spent? Were the meetings productive, did they lead to outcomes? Did I need to be in the room for all of them? What about you?
In my experience, many of the meetings I participated in were to ensure cross-team communication and alignment (i.e. updates); or leadership meetings, where sometimes we’d be making decisions as a group, sometimes socializing ideas, sometimes collaborating, sometimes complaining about decisions that have already been made that didn’t seem to factor in the impact on certain teams. Looking back, I wasn’t always clear on the purpose of these conversations. Not to say communication isn’t important, because it is. But regular recurring 1-hour meetings that took up my whole week without much thought to whether a meeting was needed or what the purpose really was …. no, I didn’t get a weeks worth of value out of them.
Now multiply the time spent in ineffective meetings by all the leaders, managers, team members in an organization, and that adds up to a whole lot of time and wages. And it doesn’t feel particularly fulfilling for me.
Is there another way?
Yes! There are organisations out there redesigning how they approach decision making and meetings across organisations of different sizes and industries. This involves purposeful cultural, behavioural, process and systemic change. It involves leaders shifting towards true leading, not managing information and decisions through a complex machine that is not fit for the complexity of the time we are in. There is not a size fits all… but there is a different way “to do” or “to be as” organisations if you have had enough of the way we do it currently
If you want to learn more about taking an Integral approach to leading yourself, teams and organization, check out the Integral + Leadership course and framework.
Imagine the potential that could be unleashed on behalf of your organisation's purpose if a large portion of your people were not wasting time in unproductive meetings or waiting for decisions made by executives without a full understanding of the complexity of the issue. What would be possible?