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What is a meeting?

There's an interesting blog post from a few weeks ago at Forbes: How Chat And Youth Are Killing the Meeting.

Can you run a company through e-mail and chat without meetings, without ever getting together in the same room or at the same time? At first, the answer seems to be yes. But there is a lot more going on here.

The article really is about how the meeting structure has begun to change in the workplace. What is a "meeting"? Some organizations are beginning to do away with most traditional meetings, opting instead to replace in-person meeting time with online chat and email. The trade-off is that everyone must be on chat, paying attention to it for most of the day.

While many 20-somethings entering the workforce today may find this exciting, it's definitely against the grain for those already established in the organization. This means the shift to more online meetings will be slow, although we already see some examples of chat-based meetings between some areas of OIT. Within the next 5 to 10 years, I predict online meetings will be more common within the University.

Technology changes the way we do business, and the ways we work together. In days past, it was common to draft a paper memo to distribute announcements and new information to a team. Corporate email changed that. When is the last time you saw an announcement from the University that was sent to you via a letter or paper memo? It's pretty much all email now.

Meetings are the next step for how technology changes things. The author suggests these guidelines to succeed in the long term with this new mode:

  • Project managers must monitor the stream of activity and capture knowledge so that what is taking place can be reviewed and analyzed later.

  • Checklists or defined processes must be in place so that the staff has guidance and a way to capture what they have learned about how to do their jobs better.

  • A mechanism to provide clarity of plans and intentions must exist so that everyone can see what everyone else is doing and conflicts or contradictions can be identified early.

  • Some form of conflict resolution must exist so that problems raised are certain to get attention.

  • Resources consumed and progress toward defined goals must be monitored as closely as possible and reported frequently.

  • There must be a forum for brainstorming and fellowship so that everyone can enjoy each other's company and learn from everyone else.

I'll add that in-person meetings are very useful, and online meetings only work well for a particular style of meetings. For example, plain "status update" meetings can easily shift to online. But if you want to generate feedback, especially collaborative feedback like a SWOT exercise or generating a set of ideas (i.e. "brainstorming") then an in-person meeting is the way to go.