I said what I said. The idea that you can get more tired from attending a meeting over Zoom in lieu of in person is just silly, in my opinion. What’s not a joke, to me at least, is that Zoom has created the opportunity for more meetings – and the fatigue that results from more meetings certainly makes sense.
For the hyper-efficient, Zoom meant the ability to fit more things into the day and those more ‘things’ often meant meetings as people yearned to make up for the water-cooler chats and random pop-ins that remote work-life didn’t afford. For people at the top of the organization, including my boss (the Chief Legal Officer or “CLO”), that meant a ton of meetings. And, so, he asked that I put my MBA hat on (wherever that is…) to figure out how our Legal Department can (1) cut-down the amount of meetings intra-department and (2) more effectively collaborate.
First, my answer: another meeting! Kidding, sort of. To cut-down the amount of meetings, I suggested that we meet every-other week for a longer period of time as a full team. At present, the CLO meets individually with the General Counsel, the Deputy General Counsel, me – the Senior Law Clerk/Legal Specialist, and the Legal Intern. He also met weekly with the GC and Deputy GC (while I was away at a law firm this summer). And I met individually with the GC. And the Deputy GC met with the Legal Intern. Chaos! These new bi-weekly group meetings would largely take place of that weekly CLO, GC, and DGC meeting. They would also allow for each team member to meet on the opposite bi-weekly schedule, if they so choose. For example, I am not meeting with the GC bi-weekly, but on the weeks that we don’t have our full team meeting. However, I am still meeting weekly with the CLO.
Meeting via Teams is in-and-of-itself a digital transformation for my Team. While I’d been working with the GC, who’s based out of NY, since I joined the company in 2019, we only ‘saw’ each other when videoconferencing became the norm back in March 2020. Continuing to incorporate the videoconferencing function of Teams allows my team to better stay in-touch and communicate. Meetings also serve an important function, as stated by Antony Jay in HBR:
I cannot deny that meetings fulfill a deep human need. Man is a social species. In every organization and every human culture of which we have record, people come together in small groups at regular and frequent intervals, and in larger “tribal” gatherings from time to time. If there are no meetings in the places where they work, people’s attachment to the organizations they work for will be small, and they will meet in regular formal or informal gatherings in associations, societies, teams, clubs, or pubs when work is over.
Next, to allow the Legal Department to more effectively collaborate and function, the new bi-weekly meetings will have a formal structure that’s broken into three parts: (1) a general update, (2) a shared learning opportunity, and (3) a work-distribution period. To also promote collaboration, we’re incorporating a weekly update without a meeting.
The problem with the CLO, GC, and DGC meetings was that they were becoming repetitive.
To avoid this common issue, Slack suggested both the use of a formal structure, or an agenda, and also providing status updates. While I love the idea of posting updates in a Teams channel, that was a little too high-tech for our slightly older generation team. So, we’re going to have a template that each member has to fill out:
This template will live on Teams so it’s a live document that both lives in the cloud and doesn’t need to be sent over email. And although it’s not as digitally transformative as Slack’s suggested status updates, it is a huge step up from what was in place before. Believe it or not, ahead of those summer meetings among the CLO, GC, and DGC, they were emailing a Word document agenda back and forth and then the CLO would compile and share his screen during the meeting.
The important takeaway here, I think, is that we’re in a generation that operates quite comfortably with technology, but we’ll be joining organizations run by some people who are not as digitally equipped. Or, actually, they’re digitally equipped but not comfortable with the technology. Our job, I think, is to ease those less comfortable with technology into more efficient operations that utilize technology. And, I think, we need to be very careful about easing them in. If we make something too complicated (even if simply posting a status update as if it were a chat doesn’t seem to be too complicated), and forget to collect feedback in the early stages of development of a new workflow, we’ll fail to gain buy-in from our counterparts and our operation will fail.
In short, meetings are important. Too many meetings are point-less. Technology is good. Too much technology too quickly will fail.