Cutting Back on Meetings via Better Knowledge Sharing

Kristen Craft | May 9, 2018

Meetings are a staple within any business. Research suggests that US-based companies hold up to 11 million meetings every day. That’s a lot of meetings. Ensuring that your sessions are made up of the right people, are as efficient as possible, and result in actionable outcomes isn’t easy.

Many companies and business people have tried to crack the code when it comes to meetings. Think of Jeff Bezos and his self-described ‘two pizza rule’ that he uses to try and improve the efficiency of meetings at Amazon. If two pizzas aren’t enough to feed everyone in the room, then there are too many people.

Meetings, and whether they’re needed or not, cause such a stir because it’s difficult to determine their cost in the long run. For example, imagine you meet with ten colleagues to discuss the upcoming quarterly review. There will be various levels of seniority in the room. Perhaps you include three Senior team members earning $200k, three mid-senior managers making $100k, and four associates receiving $50k.

Can you calculate the actual cost of this meeting if it runs for one hour? How would that cost change if the meeting ran for half that time? Oh, and don’t forget about taking into consideration the other meetings or projects that have been pushed aside for some of the team members to attend this meeting. Which is more valuable to you: the prep time for a quarterly review or 10 people hours that could go towards a high-impact project?

Granted, there are some calculators available online, like this one from Harvard Business Review, which claim to help you calculate such costs. Nonetheless, it’s still a difficult estimation process, since a number of factors get overlooked. It ignores the cost of context switching, it ignores meeting prep time, and perhaps most important, it ignores the foregone work that could have been accomplished during that time.

How to Cut Back on Meetings (or Shorten Them!)

Reducing the number of meetings you have seems appealing, but how do you do this without compromising on communication or collaboration? This may seem counterintuitive, but you may find that better communication happens when you cut back on meetings. Here’s why: when people feel frustrated by non-stop meetings, they tend to multi-task during meetings. Communication takes a hit, and ironically, you need more meetings to circle back on what happened when people weren’t paying attention.

To make your team even more efficient, you can use a wiki, which is a central place to store internal documentation about processes, projects or products they are currently working on. It’s pretty much a Wikipedia or Google for your company. If you’re unsure about something, or you want to double-check some information, you can look it up on the wiki.

Now, if we apply that principle to the business meeting context, do you need to hold a 30-minute meeting with ten colleagues to share information, recap on something that has already happened or even review a presentation?

Probably not. You do need to hold an occasional meeting to discuss matters that can then be acted upon, e.g., who will be put forward to lead the next project you’re working on, or who will move into the vacant Marketing Manager role.

Using a Wiki Effectively

Getting the most from a wiki is essential to ensure that it functions as expected. You could easily have a wiki set up and in place, but if no one takes the time to use it, then it isn’t beneficial either. To make the most of your wiki you should:

  • Encourage coworkers to document things in an organized way
  • Encourage colleagues to check the wiki regularly, particularly before consulting a colleague about a matter or before booking a meeting.
  • Use the wiki to share context before a meeting, so time isn’t wasted recapping or reviewing information in person

Initially, you might hear some pushback. People may worry that documentation is yet another task they have to complete. Instead, help people adopt a new mindset; the wiki shouldn’t be an additional piece of work you have to do. Rather, it’s a place to aggregate the project plans, research, and materials you’ve already gathered. It acts as a hub for multiple resources that make knowledge sharing and internal communication more efficient over time.

Try It and Get Those Hours Back

At Tettra, we’re big believers in empowering your team, so we’ve built the easiest to use internal wiki that will help your team share and access your team’s knowledge. We even let you search for answers right from Slack. If you’re using Slack and need a wiki, you can sign up for Tettra for free.