Several people need to have a conversation about something: let’s call a meeting,that will help “facilitate communication”, right? Probably not.

Meetings are almost always a terrible way to communicate. Don’t get me wrong, there’s are ways to have an effective meeting. But if your goal is to encourage effective communication, having a meeting means you’re fighting uphill.

Meetings tend to favor people who are outspoken, think quickly, and are self-assured. But on every effective team on which I’ve worked, there are valuable contributions to be had from those who are quiet, who think deeply, or who are a unsure of themselves. Meetings are not good outlets for those folks, which means you’re leaving the value they can add on the table whenever you have a meeting.

Some of this can be improved by changes to the meeting. A good moderator will ensure that quiet people have an opportunity to speak. But:

  • a 30-60 minute session will not ever be conducive to getting value from people who need to time to think deeply before they contribute.

  • putting someone who’s unsure of themselves on-the-spot will only discourage them from contributing

We live in a wonderful world where written communication is faster and easier than ever; having conversations in text (strings of replies on GitHub or Stash or JIRA or whatever, chats on IRC or Slack, even just email threads) is almost always a better choice than a meeting when you want everyone on your team to contribute.

Sure, it’s a bit slower than sitting in a room, but slowing down a little to get the maximum value out of your entire team seems worth it to me.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished — Lao Tzu