Management “Bro-Science”: Meetings

“Eat every 2-3 hours to keep your metabolism stoked and to keep from going into starvation mode.”

“High reps will get you ripped, low reps are only for strength.”

“You gotta drink a protein shake right after your workout.”

“Never skip breakfast.”

“Don’t squat to or below parallel. It kills your knees.”

What do the above quotes all have in common?

They’re all tenets of bro-science, a collection of ideas about nutrition and fitness that are largely false and/or supported by rather spurious science. Bro-science is most often touted by ill-educated gym-goers who blindly take the advice of supplement companies, their equally misinformed friends, or the resident gym bodybuilder who has been competing for 15 years.

Sound familiar? It should. 

What I see when bad management gets together.

What I see when bad management gets together.

Bro-science can worm its way into pretty much every industry, at every level of the workforce. All it takes is one “success story” involving one boss’s method, and you can have a stream of copycats who apply the method and crow about how well it works – even when it doesn’t. They tell their friends, who tell their friends, and all of a sudden you have a flock of micromanaging bosses who call hour-long meetings 3-4 times a week with 30-slide Powerpoints that get exactly nothing accomplished.

(If that hit a little too close to home… I am so terribly sorry.)

Today, we get to explore a little of what I call management bro-science. This type of bro-science reaches into several different aspects of working life, but I’m going to focus on meetings.

Meetings are attacked pretty much every day for being grossly inefficient and a waste of otherwise productive time. Indeed, the average worker spends four hours a week in meetings and feels that over half that time is wasted.

That’s not to say that meetings shouldn’t be held. They should. However, many meetings fall victims to bro-sciencey opinions, like:

  • The boss should always run the meeting.
  • Meetings are for open discussion.
  • Meetings are to keep abreast of a project’s progress.
  • Meetings should always last X amount of time. (30 minutes, one hour, 15 minutes, etc.)
  • Everyone (in the department, in the office, etc.) needs to attend every meeting, and the meeting doesn’t start until everyone invited is present.
  • The presenter must use a Powerpoint presentation.
  • Morale meetings – where the only purpose is to tell everyone that everything is moving along great – are perfectly okay.

You’ve probably had a boss – or two or three – who ardently supported some of these ideals. You probably noticed that many meetings were unbearable, ran over their planned length, and/or accomplished nothing.

Fortunately, advice for conducting more effective meetings abounds on the web. The challenge is implementing it. For an underling, the challenge is getting the boss to be more receptive to different meeting styles. For the intractable boss, the challenge is being open to change.

That’s why my advice is to approach management bro-science exactly like nutrition and fitness bro-science: use actual science.

  • Find research on productivity that supports more compact meeting focuses and time frames. (I linked to a good source above for statistics, but here it is again. Find more sources. If they’re anecdotal, the bigger the company/success, the better.)
  • Accumulate data from your office. Take note of specific meetings. How long do they last? How much time is spent on productive and unproductive endeavors? How much time is wasted in waiting for Always-Late Tammy to show up? How much time is spent on small talk? This can allow you to support your argument that meeting etiquette should be shaken up.
  • Talk with coworkers and team members to establish trends of who did and did not actually need to attend a given meeting. Also take note of whether the meeting was needed in the first place. (Example: a “morale” meeting that could’ve been handled with one email.) Focus on how the time could have been spent on more productive matters.

Don’t launch an all-out attack on a boss (if you’re an underling). Many who abide by this type of bro-science aren’t exactly receptive to new ideas, and hold doggedly to their belief that their way is the best way. Look at it from their point of view, and show how changing one or two things can improve their standing in the ranks. (I all but guarantee that giving a boss well-founded ideas on how to make him/herself look better to upper management will be accepted nicely.)

If you’re the boss looking to change: take the above bullet points seriously, and do a bit of digging. Your team members will love you for trying to make their lives a little less hellish.

Under all the veneer above is a simple premise: look at meetings through the lens of the scientific method. Whoever calls the meeting should define the focus several days in advance (the “problem”). Think of an avenue to solve the problem (“hypothesis”). This could involve discussing one or more specific action plans. Find research to support the hypothesis (e.g., pros/cons for each action plan) and disseminate it to everyone you’ve invited to the meeting. Let the experiment be the meeting itself. Record plenty of data (i.e., assign someone to take good notes) and analyze it. Distill the results, draw any conclusions, and inform the team of the final decision – if any.

Doing this should allow you to trim the excess, have more productive meetings, and avoid the management bro-science of meetings.

What other management bro-science have you heard? Share your experiences below!

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1 Response to Management “Bro-Science”: Meetings

  1. Pingback: Notes on Ex-Bosses |

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