Listening to Marketplace on public radio yesterday I heard one of those interesting little factoids that get your attention. Simply put, there are over 4 billion work meetings held in the United States every year.
That's 4 with a "B" billion.
From the Marketplace story:
Nancy Koehn, who teaches at the Harvard Business School [says] "Over half of the people surveyed say about half the meetings they attend are unproductive."That reminded me of a personal story from almost 40 years ago. I was attending my first national church gathering- a meeting of meetings held, at that time, over a whole week- to plan and legislate for the life of the church. I was a wide-eyed young pastor who had also been a political science major in college. I was enthralled by it.
"So maybe a little more than two billion meetings a year that most people regard a very poor use of their time -- that seems like a real waste," she adds.
Excitement. Discussions (almost endlessly). BIG ideas. On and on.
As we left the big assembly one afternoon I was walking with one of our Bishops. He was about 4 years from retirement and had been to more of these than he cared to count. As we walked he started shaking his head, looked over at me, and said in full sincerity and frustration:
There will be no meetings in heaven. If there are, I might take options on the other place.I put it down to age and frustration with the process. I was still idealistic and hopeful and, well, a believer in the system.
Today I am the old guy- and I am not planning on being anywhere near those meetings again. I gave up on that 10 years or so ago. Not just church meetings, but I would agree with the Marketplace story that at least half of all meetings are a waste of time. Yes, even the ones I led as a pastor.
I have found that workplace meetings can be just as unproductive. Most of what happens can be done in more efficient ways. Unfortunately, until the end of the meeting you don't know if this is one of those that just, perhaps, maybe, might be productive.
So I go to the meetings I am required to. I am learning to sit and listen. I don't try to talk much. I wait for the important stuff. Sure it comes. At those times I am glad I was there to get it.
But really, isn't there a better way?