Scott Berkun wrote an excellent post a while back over at his blog about stopping over-communication. He makes some great points on why over-communication happens and how to fix it. I agree with his main points, and I think they particularly apply to meetings. As Scott advises:
Overcommunication is a symptom of lack of clarity over power. If you want better communication, clarify the following:
- Who is the single person who has decision making authority for decision X
- Who should have input into that decision
- Who should be informed when the decision has been made
What Scott’s points address, really, is people’s tendency to defer. It’s a proven theory that if a person is lying helpless on the street, the more people are present, the fewer are willing to do anything- and so it goes with meetings and projects. You *have* to do something, it’s your job, so you do- but what people do is the path of least commitment. They talk about things, rather than make decisions and take action. The act of clarifying what has to be done and who must do it immediately removes that ambiguity for everyone and gets the team moving.
This leads to how to improve your meetings and projects- always make certain that actions that need to be taken are captured, including decisions to be made. Make sure that the person responsible for the action is declared. Doing so is a basic principle in project management, but it often gets lost in the communication aspects. Calling a meeting to clear a roadblock or make an important decision is not enough; who has authority to solve the problem needs to be decided as well.