On meetings and Elon Musk

Elon Musk has made the headlines this week with his thoughts on meetings.  I’m not in any way suggesting that he is stealing my ideas, but some of you will remember my blog entry on the subject in late 2015.  As we move into the next phase of Smart Working, with the introduction of Microsoft Office 365 and other digital and physical innovations, it is timely to remind ourselves.

For my own part, I think that Elon Musk’s ideas are good in part – I like the idea of  cancelling large meetings, or if you have to have them keep them “very short”.  You might remember my advice to do a 30 minute meeting in 20, and a one hour meeting in 45 minutes.  I got some very positive feedback from colleagues at the time, so let’s keep this up.

I’m not so sure that we should walk out of a meeting or end a phone call if it is failing to serve a useful purpose as suggested.  We are a polite and respectful organisation, and I would not like to lose that.  I would, however, suggest that you do not attend the next one, and tell the organiser why.  A good indication of whether you should be there is whether you check your emails during the meeting.  If you do, I’d question whether you should be there.

I’m absolutely with Elon Musk on avoiding acronyms or nonsense words.   Having moved from one sector which lives on TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) to another, I’m very aware that jargon is a barrier to understanding.  If in doubt, don’t use it.

I’m less inclined to follow his last 2 ideas – sidestepping the “chain of command” to get the job done, or ignoring the rules if following them is ridiculous.  We are a public sector organisation, and we are accountable to the Cabinet, the elected members and the residents of Staffordshire.  Our processes and rules were put in place with good intent and for good reason at the time.  That does not mean that we should not challenge rules and processes that have become outmoded, and there is a polite, constructive way of doing that.  I would ask you to “think to the finish” as a former colleague used to say; come up with solutions rather than problems, and be proactive.

One last thought on meetings, particularly as we embrace Smart Working and the possibilities of Cloud and Office 365. Don’t just ask yourselves the “why”, “what” and “who” of meetings, but also the “how”. For example, does everybody have to be in the room, or can the meeting achieve its aim remotely?  If you’re formulating a document or policy, can you use tools such as Teams in Office 365 to achieve the aim of the meeting but spread over time of your choosing and maintaining control over editing and versions?  There are around 40 Change Champions engaged throughout the organisation for the introduction of Office 365. Find out who they are in your team and ask them how you can be more effective and efficient in the way that you work. I guarantee you that it will be worth the effort.

2 Responses to “On meetings and Elon Musk”

  1. Lisa Conn says:

    I would argue that everyone being sat behind laptops checking their email is prolonging meetings as they are not fully engaged and concentrating on what is being discussed.

  2. Russ says:

    May be useful if when scheduling a meeting in the SCC Outlook calendar, if it defaulted to 10 minute blocks of time (rather than 30 minutes). This may help to encourage shorter meeting scheduling (or nudge people to think twice before scheduling ones longer than needed). presume this would need to be set up centrally ?