This pool not only helps all members to do their jobs more intelligently, but it also greatly increases the speed and efficiency of all communications among them.
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So the simple business of exchanging information and ideas that members have acquired separately or in smaller groups since the last meeting is an important contribution to the strength of the group.
By questioning and commenting on new contributions, the group performs an important “digestive” process that extracts what’s valuable and discards the rest.
But having said that, and granting that “referring the matter to a committee” can be a device for diluting authority, diffusing responsibility, and delaying decisions, I cannot deny that meetings fulfill a deep human need. In every organization and every human culture of which we have record, people come together in small groups at regular and frequent intervals, and in larger “tribal” gatherings from time to time.
If there are no meetings in the places where they work, people’s attachment to the organizations they work for will be small, and they will meet in regular formal or informal gatherings in associations, societies, teams, clubs, or pubs when work is over.
However, when the combined experience, knowledge, judgment, authority, and imagination of a half dozen people are brought to bear on issues, a great many plans and decisions are improved and sometimes transformed.
The original idea that one person might have come up with singly is tested, amplified, refined, and shaped by argument and discussion (which often acts on people as some sort of chemical stimulant to better performance), until it satisfies far more requirements and overcomes many more objections than it could in its original form. A meeting helps every individual understand both the collective aim of the group and the way in which his own and everyone else’s work can contribute to the group’s success. A meeting creates in all present a commitment to the decisions it makes and the objectives it pursues.
But any manager who has ever had to make an organization work greets this vision with a smile that soon stretches into a yawn.
There is a world of science fiction, and a world of human reality; and those who live in the world of human reality know that it is held together by face-to-face meetings.
Real opposition to decisions within organizations usually consists of one part disagreement with the decision to nine parts resentment at not being consulted before the decision.