I know this will come as a huge shock, but most people despise meetings. When I ask staff about things that are holding them back, almost to a person they have said, “Too many meetings.”
When it comes right down to it, though, these are rituals that are deeply ingrained in the culture of our school. Most schools have a similar situation.
Long, low-energy meetings tend to distract and mute the day. – Martin Fowler
The trouble with throwing out meetings completely is that they do have some value. According to a few papers summarized here, meetings can help achieve the following:
- Shared commitment
- Communicate daily status, progress, and plans to the team and any observers
- Identify obstacles so that the team can take steps to remove them
- Set direction and focus
- Build a team
Being a new leader and getting to know my staff, I’m not willing to cut out all meetings. But what I am committed to doing is making sure that every minute we spend in some kind of meeting serves to move forward the school’s mission and agenda.
Zero-Based Meeting Budgeting We’re going to get back to basics. At the first regular, monthly meeting of our leadership team, we will remove every meeting from our calendars and begin adding back in those meetings that make sense and will move us toward our goals. We will no longer meet four times per month if we can accomplish the same objective in two highly-productive, focused meetings.
Less meeting time focused on dissemination of information Since my first day on the job, I’ve made some changes that I hope will whittle down the sheer volume of meeting time. Depending on the sensitivity, items that are “information only” in nature go into an email to team leaders or onto our school blog or wiki. Weening people off email has gone well so far, in no small part thanks to my very flexible group of teacher leaders who have been willing to jump into some new ways of doing business.
Two things I’ve learned in trying to bring this level of change to the day-to-day business of an organization are (1) stop trying to use the “inducement” approach to improving processes and systems (see letter B of Scott’s post on RSS for PD), and (2) stop asking questions like “Do you use Google Docs?” in favor of questions like, “To which email address should I send the invite for this document we’re working on?” It’s all about positive presuppositions. Of course we’re using Google Docs! I mean, who isn’t?
I’ll let you know how it goes, but it’s a start! Look for an upcoming post with more detail on the process of paper-reduction in a 40-year-old middle school.
Interesting reads I plan to share with the team: