80/20 rule for meetings

Published on Sep 8, 2020

I hate meetings. Don't get me wrong, I understand their importance and like good meetings. Two-three people discussions are effective and fast, but when a lot of people gather together it often becomes messy and unproductive. A good agenda doesn't help because most of the participants say only a few words over the course of an hour. Six ten-minute meetings between three people are much better than the one-hour meeting for twenty people. 

It is the 80/20 rule in action. 20% of the meeting's participants make 80% of the conversation. From this 20%, its relative 20% make 80% of the decisions. As a result, only 2 people out of 50-people-meeting make real decisions. For the rest of the 80% participants, meetings are a waste of time. Don't get it serious. These are rough numbers and they depend on the length and purpose of the meeting. It's fine to get even 100 people in one call if its aim is to update everyone on something.

For decision-making meetings, an ideal case is a few main people gathering together. They spend a few minutes on quick and productive conversation and then update everyone else in a few lines of text and take feedback. The whole process includes both processing conversations, distilling them into decisions and knowledge, and storing and distributing it via documentation or other tools. The problem with it is it requires a good culture of written communication and knowledge management. It is challenging and companies often neglect it, which is a big missed opportunity.

The aim of the meeting must be to make an actual decision but not being a conversation for the sake of conversation.