I’ve been trying to figure out best practices for, well, just getting stuff done with other people. Somehow, it seems like we use email when we should use a meeting, a meeting when we should use a quick face-to-face, and a quick face-to-face when we should use email. I’m constantly left feeling somewhat, uh, unsatisfied with the way we get things done, and I’m using this post to try to figure it out. Any and all insight would be appreciated!
Last week, a coworker & I went out for lunch, grabbed a beer, and took 30 minutes to figure out a transition process. (A transition process that we and others were actually pretty darn happy with, actually.) Had we tried to do this via email, it would have taken eight thousand years, and I’m not sure we would ever have gotten it done. Yes, we did some prep work via email and drop-bys (and I am a Salesforce data geek, as we found out), but we got it done much more efficiently in a quick meeting than we ever could have done it via email.
I was also part of an email chain last week where we could have cut through it with a couple of cubicle drop-bys. In fact, I got so sick of the email chain that I started walking around the office and talking to the people involved just so we could get the darn thing done.
That’s not to say that everything can or should be done face-to-face. We have a bunch of consultants and salesfolk here who are almost impossible to get in front of–they’re on the phone constantly. As such, email is absolutely vital for communication. I’ve also been known to wander the office for many minutes looking for the person with whom I want a quick chat, only to forget about it after I got back to my desk. Email can be vital for in-the-moment communication, so that nothing gets lost or forgotten. Email can also include lots of parties and save people from having to wait for three weeks in order to put a meeting on everyone’s calendars.
At the very least, it’s a good idea to chat with someone face-to-face, return to your computer, and send a follow-up email to make sure everyone both remembers the conversation and is on the same page. You can also loop in folks who weren’t part of the conversation but should be aware of its occurrence.
As you can see from above, I definitely think that quick meetings have their times and places, but should be minimized overall. If you have one-way “vital” information, an informal “pull someone into the conference room” can often do the trick. (As I write this, I realize that I’ve scheduled several meetings already today–all of which involved multiple people or really needed the 1:1 sit-down function of a meeting. No, really!) I think it’s entirely too easy to decide to schedule a meeting rather than communicate more openly and constantly. But overall, I’m still trying to figure out the threshold for holding a meeting vs. one of the other communication efforts above.
Does anyone have any ideas? Do you have any specific “I hold a meeting when…” criteria? Please share!