Brain power

The science of scheduling meetings effectively

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

It’s rare to find a manager anywhere who thinks they have too “few” meetings, and yet the curse of “busyness” continues, with people stuffing their day with meetings that add little, if any, value to their day.

Suffice it to say, this is not to say that meetings are completely useless, with benefits such as coordination and socialization, but the key is to strike a suitable balance so that time is not wasted.

Scheduling meetings

Research1 from INSEAD utilizes game theory to explore how meetings can be more effectively scheduled. The heart of their approach is the realization that when we talk about having too many meetings, we often do so purely from our own perspective rather than that of the collective. So what may be a chore for us may be useful for others.

The model suggests that the best heuristic for scheduling meetings revolves around the size of the team and the homogeneity of its members, with this defined as the similarities in their needs and the value they produce.

For instance, if a team is small and pretty homogenous, then the best approach is to create meetings based on the needs of the team members. In other words, it’s a very fluid approach.

When teams are larger, however, there is a greater chance that they are dissimilar. This raises the prospect of one member needing help and interrupting the work of another to get it.

Larger teams

Teams of medium size have a couple of options. They can go for an “open-door” approach, where anyone can interrupt anyone else anytime they need, but with a rule that sets aside a minimum amount of time for individual work after team meetings.

For example, if the team meets today, there should be a minimum of X days when everyone gets uninterrupted work time. After that, it’s okay to interrupt each other.

On the other hand, they can choose a “closed-door” approach where the default is quiet work time (like getting stuff done), but only up to a certain limit. After a set number of days for focused work, team members make themselves available in case a coworker needs help or wants to coordinate.

Both approaches can be a bit tricky to put into practice because you have to customize the timeframes to fit your team’s needs. But these options help deal with the problem of some team members constantly needing attention, which can slow down the whole team.

In the world of teamwork, the researchers found that policies based on needs and backed by time safeguards work really well in big teams. But here’s a surprise: just sticking to a regular meeting schedule, whether it’s every week, every two weeks, or every month, also works great. This strict schedule helps avoid the problem of some team members always needing meetings, especially when you have a large team.

Article source: The Science Of Scheduling Meetings Effectively.

Header image source: iStock.

Reference:

  1. Roels, G., & Corbett, C. J. (2024). Too many meetings? Scheduling rules for team coordination. INSEAD Working Paper 2023/39/TOM.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and Work.com, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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