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Meetings: Where Work Goes to Die


Too many meetings is bad, but zero meetings isn’t good either. Programmers need to exchange info beyond the need-to-know bases, and meta-communication serves a purpose for creating teams, sharing inspiration and creating a a primodial soup for future feature ideas. It’s not nice to be treated like a code producing robot that receives just the minimum info, gets assigned issues and delivers them and that’s it.

But I wonder what really makes the difference, do teams create the tools or do the tools create the teams. What do you think?


The weekly team meetings at my last job used to get me down, 90% waste of time.
I read somewhere that these types of meetings should be held in rooms with no chairs - people aren’t happy to waffle away the day if they’re standing up. I like the idea, couldn’t get the employer to implement it though.


I think you could take #4 (Make it Optional) a step further and even say “Decline Meetings”. Not enough people decline meetings they shouldn’t be in. Glad you also pointed out at the end that the solution isn’t to not have meetings. Meetings are important, as long as they’re run well.

I’ve incorporated many similar principles as yours in a meeting tool I built - www.LessMeeting.com. I’d love your feedback. Does it help you run your meetings better?


You can pretty much tell how big the company someone works for is by their comments here. Remember the n-squared communications problem? Big companies, with thousands or tens of thousands of employees, tens of product areas, and lots of non-development staff (marketers, writers, sales, long-term strategy people, etc) need meetings to make certain everyone stays in the loop and everyone is working towards the same goal. If they try to keep everyone up-to-date on everything all the time no one has time to do anything but read project updates. So you have meetings where you communicate with other groups on the project you’re working on, you have meetings for high-level updates on other projects that aren’t expected to affect you, but may in ways other people haven’t noticed. You have meetings with your internal stakeholders to make sure that what you’re doing meets their needs. You can get rid of the meetings, but you’re only going to increase the communications overhead by forcing people to constantly be ready to discuss any of those topics, rather than confining it to a 1-hour timeslot that people can prepare for.


Oh how the public sector could stand to follow this advice. Hours upon hours of meetings over a single project, and 2 years later we are still discussing the same thing.


Jason Fried’s TED talk “Why work doesn’t happen at work” is a nice compliment to this post.



A couple of months ago, I read a book called “Read This Before Our Next Meeting: The Modern Meeting Standard” (see my review on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/197394213). It’s right in line with what you’re saying here, with more details/suggestions for moving your organization to a culture of only having meetings that are meaningful.

One of the critical suggestions from the book is to not have a meeting when a conversation will suffice. I like that – conversations are active and not nearly as disruptive to my schedule as meetings are.


It’s not meetinsg themselves that are bad.
It’s unnecessary meetings or long meetings. Long, unnecessary meetings are the worst (and, unfortunately, the most common).

Agile practices (Scrum, in particular) proposes daily stand-ups - but even they can degenerate.
I was just reading about an interesting technique to counter that:



Ugh! Two typos in one short post.
It must be a weekend.
I never could get the hang of weekends.


My mother used to work for this guy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erling_Dekke_N%C3%A6ss in Bermuda, no meeting lasted longer than 15 minutes and one item was only ever on the agenda.


I loved this article. It was so great.

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Jeff, what are your thoughts on systems like LastPass? I guess without knowing how they really store their passwords it’s hard to judge but in general do you use systems that store your passwords for you?


That infographic is hilarious. Nice article.


I built something over the last few weeks that aims to kill long meetings by visualizing time and money burned in your meeting: http://killlongmeetings.com.


So true! Meetings, ugh! Especially for developers, aside from the initial kick-off meeting, all other meetings are just waste of time. I used to work for a company where I literally spent more than half the day, everyday on meetings. Sometimes we would have meetings about meetings, we could hardly get anything done, it was ridiculous! LOL!


I would love to add my two cents to this as well.

In my previous company, there often were pointless meetings.
Where a “the more the better” culture dominated the meeting room (as in: Rather invite to many people then to few. After all, you never know!)
If you had a lot on your plate and you couldn’t justify staying away, you continued your work during the meeting…
Not good at all.

In my current company though, we have a very different meeting culture.
First of: No Laptops allowed. This way no urgent mails, current work and so on can serve as a distraction.
Every monday all developers get together for 30min to give a short status about their current project(s). Nothing in depth, only to make sure, that everyone knows wether or not their work impacts the work of any other programmer and to get a rough overview about current topics. (If there were no changes, then there will be no meeting)
Otherwise, there are only meetings about planed changes and their implementation Stuff like: “This is what the customer wants and why” or “This is how I want to implement the change and why” followed by “This is the way I will test the change”. There is a clearly defined number of people for those meetings (never more then 5, normaly only 3)
This way, I barely ever had to attend a meeting that I felt to be a waste of my time.
Sure, some of those meetings (especially the “This is what the customer wants” Meetings), can run longer then just one hour, but most of the time, it works out.
Those meetings truly work and enhance my daily work live instead of killing it off.


Late, but you guys might enjoy this :slight_smile:

We made a free app that crunches 12 months of calendar data and shoots out how much of your life is in meetings plus a ton of other stats.

You can see my meeting stats report here too for what it looks like.

Privacy is super important:

  • We don’t download any of your data, it hits memory while we tabulate results.
  • The only thing we store is the email associated with the account and tabulated results.
  • We kill off the token as soon as we are done so we can’t access it ever again.

Let me know what you think, we are working on a version for businesses to help get meetings under control and stop the madness.
Thanks, Ben


Yes! This is amazing, I saw this a day or two ago, thank you for creating it!!


Aww thanks :), maybe we can do a custom data setup with CodingHorror and show what it typically looks like for software developers, and at the top 10% and bottom 10%? Interested in doing something like that?

ben@execution.com if you are interested, we do a fun data story with your readers!