I used to be appalled by meetings in organizations by the terrible waste of time and people. But I’m okay now. Over the years, I observed what people did before they came to those meetings, and after they left. So it seems to me to be about what you’d expect.
All that called to mind something else. As I reflected on my growing-up years on my grandparents’ small, self-sufficient farm in Kansas, I realized that people didn’t talk much. If there was a problem, no meeting was called. The problem was fixed by the person who noticed it. Even if the farmers and the farmers’ wives got together, there was no wasted talk. The gossip was juicy, but necessary to the social order. Mostly they talked about ways of solving the problems they had, ways of dealing with what was most likely to happen – like too much or too little rain, better ways of plowing a field, that sort of thing. Their talk was like their quilts and their stews. Nothing was wasted.
So I came upon a theory. Actually, two. One was that if there were a person who wanted to talk, but didn’t actually want to solve a problem, he or she was slowly excommunicated. The other was that if the talk couldn’t be used to deal with a problem, it collapsed. Lots of talk about something therefore meant that nobody was going to do anything about it.
So now I have a contemporary theory about meetings. The more talk there is, the less action there is going to be. Some people seem to believe that they get paid for talking. They do.