(From a cleverer man than me. And very funny)
You may have to think about this but it will save you endless hours of misery, rage and frustration
Here’s an equation…
N x (N – 1) ÷ 2
This shows the number of agreements required in a meeting where N is the number of people attending.
For example, when two people meet (N = 2), the number of agreements you need is 1 [work it out: 2 x (2 – 1) ÷ 2 = 1].
In other words, person A needs to agree with person B – one agreement.
And that’s it.
But when four people meet, it’s six agreements – AB, AC, AD, BC, BD and CD. [If you care – and who does? – the maths is 4 x (4 – 1) ÷ 2 = 6]
Obviously, it’s much harder to get six agreements than one.
And if you do the maths, you’ll find meetings of eight people require 28 agreements; and sixteen people require 120. This will mean big meetings take ages, and people rarely agree on everything.
You’ll have seen this at work. It’s all-too-easy to think “collaboration” means piling as many people as possible in a room to discuss things.
But this often leads to decisions taking ages, not happening at all, or being rubbish (that’s why they say a camel is what a horse would look like if it was designed by committee).
So, what to do about it?
Well, you have a few options. One is to reduce the number of people involved. For instance, some/all of:
- Only invite people who need to be there. One way to decide who could be to use the RACI model (this is a way of looking at each person’s role – are they Responsible, Accountable, do we need to Consult with them, or only Inform them?)
- Only invite people who need to be there – remember, you can always send the Actions Arising to non-attendees
- Don’t attend meetings you don’t need to – you can ask to see the Actions Arising
- Never allow big groups to discuss small detail (simply say “we’ll do the detail offline. For now, let’s just agree the main points”)
- Where appropriate, split large groups into smaller sub-groups. One sub-group does a detailed first draft, to share with the wider group
I was once invited to a meeting to put together a complex proposal for a £ multi million project. There were – get this – 28 people there.
They asked me how I wanted to start the meeting. I told them “by removing as many people from this room as we can”
Which they did. And we had a great meeting.
And they won the contract.
But if I hadn’t done this, we’d have needed 378 agreements. That was just never going to happen.
Which of your meetings has the most attendees? And what can you do to reduce the numbers?
Also, which of this week’s meetings do you not need to attend? Get out of one meeting per week, and you save about 50 hours per year – that’s a working week!
Now what you just read was from my esteemed colleague Andy Bounds.
In exactly two weeks from now you can join him and me in a meeting I strongly advise you do attend. And I should add that because I am such a slapdash old soul, and most of the seats are already sold you can get a very good deal.