Can fewer meetings lead to better collaboration?
Three new ways to foster collaboration without more meetings.
A colleague shared a recent study with me. It said that most employees feel that many meetings they attend are unnecessary and/or unproductive (what a surprise). But it got me thinking, since working remotely and participating in more and more virtual teams, I seem to have noticeably fewer scheduled meetings and conference calls to attend. At face value, this seemed counter-intuitive. Yet I have never felt more connected in terms of working collaboratively with my colleagues across many extended teams.
You could argue that the central point and purpose of “meetings” in the general sense is to foster communication and collaboration. So how could this sense of change be explained? How can distributed teams stay connected and on-track without all those scheduled meetings to hold things together?
Well, thinking about it further I realized that our team members – despite working across time zones and even continents – have a common collaborative thread tying them together. My sense is that the new web-based and mobile collaboration tools seem to have had a significant impact on the way we work. I have found solutions like Circuit by Unify enable collective productivity without the need for so many scheduled meetings and conference calls.
Why is this you ask? I have not done a scientific analysis, but I think there are three main drivers of team productivity (without the need for scheduled meetings) that are enabled by web-based tools like Circuit:
- Rich, multimedia communications (voice, audio, video, file and content sharing, desktop sharing, persistent text conversations) allow instantaneous access to other people and content – anytime, anywhere and on any device. So this could be one reason that assembling people in a room to communicate, or gathering on a conference call may no longer be necessary. And, given any session (audio, video, desktop sharing) can be recorded in real-time, any other team member can access that content at any time as needed.
- The fact that team initiatives or projects are conversation-based and persistent, means there is a fluid and ongoing dialog going on – updates, comments, suggestions, content sharing – that moves things forward toward the common goal. The momentum of the team is sustained by the conversation, rather than by the “jab” of a scheduled sit-down meeting or conference call review meeting.
- Eventually, individual behavior starts to change accordingly – as people fall out of the habit of scheduling meetings every time something comes up or as a routine matter of course. Meetings can be scheduled to meeting a specific purpose but are less likely to be called unnecessarily just to go through the motions of a formal meeting.
So, I would argue that people adapt to the new way of working and experience richer and more natural collaboration, with fewer sit-down meetings or dreaded conference calls. In my experience, the new generation of collaboration tools fosters more fluid teamwork and creates a central hub of conversation and content sharing.