Finally answered: Should this meeting be an email?
If it doesn’t get actual work done, then yes, it should be an email
I have claimed before to have answered the question “should this meeting have been an email?”
But a shower thought this week lead me to another great test of whether a meeting should have been an email:
Does it remove tasks from someone’s to-do list?
It doesn’t matter who it is, and it also doesn’t matter if it also adds tasks to that to-do list.
But if the meeting doesn’t complete an action that needed to be completed regardless of whether there was a meeting, then that meeting could probably be an email.
“But what about status updates? No body puts ‘get an update’ on their to-do list.”
Exactly. Updates can be an email. Or better yet, a Slack message or Basecamp post.
“But what about our daily stand up? No work gets done in those meetings.”
Exactly. If the team member didn’t make a note saying “get X team member to help with Y blocker”, then you probably don’t need a real-time stand up. And arguably, helping each other with blockers shouldn’t require a whole team meeting. That can be a one-to-one conversation.
“But I need to communicate a change that’s happening in the org. But no one knows about it so no one has ‘find out about the change’ on their to-do list.”
Exactly. So instead of having a meeting just to tell people about a change, make it active. Enable people to design how their role will change to accommodate the organisation wide strategy shift. Give teams a chance to explore a demo of the new software driving your digital transformation. When you have news to share, anticipate what “to-dos” your team will have as a result of the news and help them get it done.
Over to you
Can you think of any situations where this test wouldn’t work? Where a meeting is necessary but doesn’t remove anything from anyone’s to-do list?