Your meetings culture isn’t your problem, it’s your dependencies culture that’s killing you.

I had coffee with a good friend of mine last week who is leading the transformation at a major media company. We were talking meetings. She offered this on the topic:

My favourite example of meetings madness is the working group I was drawn into re what we should do about meetings. After 3 or 4 non-productive meetings on meetings, I extracted myself in the hope they may be able to take a decision and move forward easier with one less person. I subsequently found out they have commissioned a company-wide survey to throw the net even wider! With still no action.

Trust me: meetings are not your issue, dependencies are.

This friend also told me a familiar tale of people organised into sales teams, marketing teams, software development teams, IT operations teams and so on. This is your meetings problem – how you’re organised is your meetings problem. To get anything meaningful done, a sucker from each of every one of these teams has to be pulled into a session to agree collectively on the way forward. Then, how often does this group have to throw the decision up the tree to get approval?

You will not survive as a business like this. Amazon makes multiple software updates every minute. They may have 99 problems, but I’m a guessing a meetings culture ain’t one. If you’re in any way digital and you’re not competing with businesses that evolve this quickly, it won’t be long before you do.

Cut to another example: my friend Jack Hubbard, CEO of the highly successful digital marketing agency, propellernet. He runs his company from his treehouse in the French Alps. When he gets up each morning to munch his croissant, he’s more concerned with the snow forecast than any clashes in his Microsoft calendar. Why? His teams don’t have him as a dependency. He has formal management meetings four times per year. Yes, four per year.

So for all of you with rammed calendars, quit whinging about the quality of your meetings and start taking action on the number of your incoming dependencies.


If you’re a leader, here’s your assignment: go to each and every team that has you (or a regular meeting of yours) as a dependency. Help them to map out each of their dependencies, incoming and outgoing. Now work with them to snap those spider legs one at a time.

  • How can they pull a resource or a person to within the boundary of the team?
  • How can they get the authority for the big decisions they need to make to sit within the team?
  • How can they go from a team supported by Marketing, HR, Development, Finance, IT Operations to a team with all these capabilities embedded?

Of course, this is a threat to all those fiefdoms, and the politics are going to get heated, but someone’s got to take this on. Go in and fight the good fight, one team at a time. Now watch your diary entries drain out like cookies from a jar at a toddlers’ tea party.