Asynchronous communication is very important while working remotely. People don't have to be working at the same time when we get rid of meetings. Fortunately, we have enough tools to eliminate most of our meetings. So, before you schedule a new call, please read this post and ask yourself: "Do we really need this meeting?"
Why should we get rid of meetings?
- Most people present in meetings don't care at all about what's being discussed
- It's a blocking work: people have a feeling they're being productive but it's blocking them from getting real work done
- It's useless: most decisions could easily be done by email or using other collaboration tools
- It's synchronous: it requires everyone to be present at the same time
- It has a lot of bullshit: people focus too much on appearances and politics rather than getting to the point
- It leads to miscommunication and conflicts. For example, Brian says: "I think we should be cautious about this supplier." Next week someone says: "Oh, Brian said lots of bad things about this supplier during last week's meeting. We shouldn't trust Brian." When you write things down, it's clear and transparent who said what and how decisions were made.
- It's less inclusive: as mentioned on GitLab's guide, "while decisions made around office water coolers may be familiar in traditional workplaces, the input is limited to those present. Those who are not present feel left out, and you're missing an opportunity to hear different perspectives."
- You can have non-linear workdays.
How to get rid of meetings?
Writing things down is a great practice for asynchronous communication. People can loop in their own time. You don't need to care about timezones or if you have to take your kids to the doctor. Everyone is free to join the discussion when they have time to do so. Fortunately, there are some great tools available for asynchronous communication that will help you to manage your projects.
By brainstorming in text instead of drawings, we're forced to clearly articulate proposals, designs, and ideas, with less variance in interpretations. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's also open to as many interpretations as there are people viewing it.
Decline useless meetings
Make sure a meeting has an agenda, a clear proposal, and it will have a better outcome than if it was done asynchronously. GitLab, for example, encourages team members to decline meetings lacking a clear agenda:
This will force team members to think long and hard on whether a meeting is necessary, and the burden of adding an agenda shows those who are invited that the organizer is proactively thinking through the meeting's purpose. It's also respectful, as it allows those in different time zones the opportunity to contribute questions and topics in advance, asynchronously.
Make the organizer document all takeaways
All information discussed in meetings should be available for those who couldn't attend it or weren't included. Some companies have a person responsible for writing down the takeaways. However, it might be more useful to make the meeting organizer do that work. This will force them to think twice before scheduling a meeting. It's also important to give some context:
It's not enough to merely document the call. The meeting organizer must also contextualize key takeaways using low-context communication and add to relevant handbook pages. This ensures that decisions and progress are made public to the entire team. This added burden forces team members to consider approaching work asynchronously first. While this may seem absurd, it's a key example of going slow to go fast.
Dealing with excuses
Some people don't know how to express themselves in written communication. Because we can't hear their tone, they might come off as rude or impolite. It's important to :
- Understand that not everyone communicates so well. If you think someone is being rude, try to clarify their point before judging them
- Practice written communication whenever you can
- Minimize politics and manage your ego: go straight to the point when communicating to others
Some of those issues might happen in verbal communication as well. So, it's not a problem coming exclusively from writing things down.
Not every organization is open. Some discussions might have to be held privately, but even those could be done by asynchronous communication. You can just create specific channels for your team or workgroup. Most collaboration tools offer that possibility already.
Do you have any other practical examples for getting rid of meetings? Then, update this page to share them.