Jason Fried May Sound Right, But I Think He Is Wrong – Meetings Are Not The Devil

I don’t know how to identify an “expert” all that easily these days. Is a person an expert because he/she has written a book?  Probably not.  But, when smart people disagree, how do we decide who knows enough to copy and emulate?

Consider this:  is it good, or bad, to have meetings?

In Verne Harnish’s book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Harnish teaches that the rhythm of regular meetings is critical to the success of a company or organization.  Jason Fried disagrees.

I like Jason Fried.  He is a witty, good writer.  I liked his book, Rework, which I read and presented.  It is a terrific thought-provoking read.  But I think he is leading us astray.

In Jason Fried’s world, heard in his TED talk, Why work doesn’t happen at work (watch the video here), Jason Fried basically says that meetings are the devil.  Here’s what Fried had to say (taken directly from the video):

The real problems are the “m & ms” — the managers and the meetings.  Managers’ real jobs are to interrupt people…  and, managers most of all call meetings, and meetings are just toxic; they’re just terrible poisonous things during the day at work… 

So, who is right, Harnish or Fried?  Are meetings good – or bad?

I suspect that Harnish is right, and I would say to Jason Fried, “no, meetings are not the devil.”  Yes, there is a problem with bad meetings, run by unprepared, clueless leaders.  I would agree that bad, poorly run, unfocused meetings may be the devil.

But the solution is not “no meetings,” or even “fewer meetings,” but “good meetings.”

Jason Fried says:  “People don’t do work in the office.”  He says that we need “long stretches of time” to get meaningful work done – a premise that I do agree with.  And he says, that the office provides not a place for work, but a place for “work moments.”  Ok, he may be right about that.  But then, he blames that problem on too many meetings.  And that is where he misleads us.

There is a flood of evidence that meetings of all kinds lead to superior performance.  Let me remind us all again:  a Super Bowl winning football team has countless, seemingly endless, very regular meetings.  They watch film together, they listen to their position coaches together; there are group meetings, there are one-on-one meetings, there are sideline meetings in the middle of a game, there are very short meetings before every play (called “huddles”)…  Try winning a Super Bowl with no meetings!

So my advice to the Jason Fried fans out there is, quit listening to Jason Fried.  Look instead to people who know how to plan, run, and follow up after meetings.  Study how they conduct their meetings, and “go and do likewise.”

No, the devil is not meetings…the problem is bad, non-purposeful, “meetings just to meet” meetings.  But a good leader, running a purposeful meeting, providing follow-up after the meetings… this is the lifeblood of a successful organization.

Do you need to improve your skills at running meetings?  You can start with reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Harnish.

And by the way, I wonder if the TED folks have any meetings to prepare and plan for their conferences?  I bet they do!


You can purchase my synopses of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, and Rework, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

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