I’ve been talking about Parkinson’s Law in relation to meetings for over 30 years.
Simply stated (in terms of meetings) it says that a meeting will run for as long as there is time available. I have added the flip – meetings will also run for as long as the time allotted.
So in simple terms, this means that if a meeting is allotted one hour, it will take one hour. But if the same meeting is scheduled to take 45 minutes – it will be done and dusted in 45 minutes. It’s a phenomenon of human behaviour and it still happens today as much as it did 5, 10, 20 years ago.
How to apply Parkinson’s Law to your advantage
The answer is so simple, but so many meeting leaders are reluctant to do it for fear that they will run out of time. The answer? Simply reduce the allocated time for your meetings. Start with 20%, then move to 30% and eventually you may find you can achieve the same results in half the time.
The irony of this is that by reducing the time, a range of other things happen. The people at the meeting will, at first, be surprised – surprised that the allocated time is less, and then even more surprised when the meeting actually gets through everything in a shorter time. That will increase their commitment to the meeting because it starts to become more productive and the people are out the door more quickly and able to do the work they are employed to do. It builds satisfaction and that builds staff engagement.
If you are not in the chair, try sharing this blog with your meeting leader and ask them if you can try it – just for 2 meetings – see what happens. It’s highly likely that you’ll achieve everything in the shorter time so then suggest a further experiment and shorten the time even more.
I work with organisations to have fewer, shorter and better meetings and this is one of the first things we do. Some people cannot believe it works – they are nearly always surprised!