Finding Time

Nora Akins

Peter Drucker identified a shift in work from muscle to mind in the late 1950s, which led to the term "knowledge worker." Many knowledge workers stay after work, arrive early or work at home to find time to think about what needs to be done, or give a project the deep thought it requires. One reason people are working outside of work hours is work hours are consumed by meetings. Meetings are necessary and effective when well run. Even when meetings are well run, too many or poorly timed meetings result in wasted time.

In a typical meeting, three people do 70 percent of the talking. Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking" encouraged introverts to prepare for what they want to say in meetings and speak up early to be recognized. She also encouraged meeting leaders to monitor who is speaking and engage those who are not speaking.

No tech meetings are growing in popularity. Dropping your phone and laptop at the door initially creates anxiety. Studies have shown the benefits far outweigh the initial detox period which may take some workers up to a month to resolve. No tech meetings are more efficient. People prepare materials more thoroughly ahead of time when they can’t pull it up on their laptop during the meeting. People are more engaged, meetings take less time due to the absence of self-interruption and meetings are more productive.

Having no technology is not the answer, only part of the answer, which may or may not work for everyone. "Stop the Meeting Madness," an article in the July-August 2017 issue of "Harvard Business Review" (HBR) recommends analyzing and changing meeting patterns. The article offers questions to ask each individual, recommends analyzing the data as a group, establishing a personally relevant goal and monitoring progress as well as personal pulse checks after the agreed upon change occurs. It is a five-step approach to make a culture shift not just for more effective meetings, but a new way to look at meetings.

Neuroscience has taught us brainstorming in a group is the most ineffective way to be creative. Solitude promotes the ability to think and be creative. If you want ideas generated by a group of individuals, send them away, alone; give the individuals time to think. Then have them meet to present their thoughts. Such meetings when everyone has an opportunity to speak, listen and respond will improve overall communication and results.

Another possible outcome of surveying your employees about meetings is the number and cadence of meetings may eliminate any time for deep thought or project work. If an individual has meetings across departments throughout the week, there may be little time during the workday to work. No meeting days or periods of the day restricting meetings have been implemented in many companies. The key is to include everyone in the communication about such a culture shift.

The article in HBR emphasizes analyze first, communicate the results of the survey to everyone next, then make a change. The results noted in that article included more open, honest communication, helping each other with priorities, resources and even helping each other work. Examine and modify your meetings with the goal of a healthy, respectful workplace where people can get their work done at work.

Nora T. Akins, of Strategic Management provides management training and refines human resource systems to help employers build respectful workplaces. Reach Nora at 219 873-1735 or


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