If, like many of the people I work with, you’re wondering why your calendar is packed with back-to-back remote meetings, this post is for you. It turns out there’s a scientific explanation.
Let me share the details. First, we need to understand why most meetings happen:
At the most basic level, teams meet to quickly create shared perspective in a group.Elise Keith, Where The Action Is
Given that, why do meetings – remote meetings in particular – tend to proliferate?
- Meetings tend to proliferate as organisations grow. In small organisations of up to about five people, all co-located, everyone knows what everyone else is up to, so “update” meetings aren’t often needed. When there are more people, the number of conversations needed to keep everyone up to speed with what everyone else is doing multiplies. (This effect of Metcalfe’s Law is detailed in Elise Keith’s book.)
- Meetings tend to proliferate even more as organisations expand beyond the confines of “the office”. All other things being equal, it’s harder for people who aren’t all together to know what everyone else is doing. Whether you’ve got virtual teams spread all over the globe, the odd offsite contractor or someone who works from home two days a week, the fact that people are remote tends to increase the number of conversations needed to create that shared perspective.
- While in-the-room meetings have physical limits, remote meetings don’t. They aren’t restricted by the number of available meeting rooms, or by the time and cost of travel. In most organisations, almost anyone can call an online meeting and invite as many people as they want.
So, meetings tend to proliferate and remote meetings tend to proliferate even more… unless someone does something to limit them.
And when they proliferate, what happens to meeting quality? And what can be done about it? That’s a topic for a future blog post!