Too many meetings

Big companies hire ‘professional managers. The problem is they knew how to manage… but too often don’t know how to do anything without weeks of meetings and PowerPoints. Steve Jobs said, “you know who the best managers are? They’re the great individual contributors who never want to be a manager… but decide they want to be a manager because no one else will be able to do as good a job as them.

A client asked me if I could recommend some SWAG for employees for the holidays. I submitted a list of five items by researching what products are scorching this Christmas. I was, however, taken aback when the manager called a one-hour meeting with six other people to review the items. The budget had already been allocated, so it was just a matter of choosing the correct item. This is part of big pharma’s problem.

With endless meetings, incessant emails, and casts of thousands, pharma has mastered the art of unnecessary interactions. Winning in the next normal requires much more focus on actual collaboration.


A recent McKinsey survey found 80 percent of executives were considering or already implementing changes in meeting structure and cadence in response to the evolution in how people work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, most executives say they frequently spend too much time on pointless interactions that drain their energy and produce information overload.

Without a strategy, meetings can become aimless. One study found that 38% of professionals said poor organization leads to losing focus on projects. Team members must know their responsibilities before and after a meeting. A carefully written meeting agenda will help keep everyone focused during your call and on-task.

When running a meeting, take accurate notes and consider the guest list. The extra numbers can negatively affect productivity if organizers invite too many people to a meeting. Research from Doodle found that 31% of workers believe that irrelevant attendees’ slow progress. Cutting down on numbers can save time and speed up progress in tasks.

Meetings are essential for enabling collaboration, creativity, and innovation. They often foster relationships and ensure proper information exchange. They provide real benefits. But why would anyone argue in defense of excessive meetings, especially when no one likes them much?

Happiness at work takes a hit with more meetings.

A study by Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina and colleagues showed that how workers feel about the effectiveness of meetings correlates with their general satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their jobs, even after controlling for personality traits and environmental factors such as work design, supervision, and pay. Instead of improving communication and collaboration, as intended, bad meetings undermine those things. Consider the executive who stabbed her leg with a pencil. Did that staff meeting advance teamwork or set it back? A few positive experiences a week cannot compensate for many excruciating, wasteful ones.

One hundred eighty-two senior managers in various industries: 65% said meetings keep them from completing their work. 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. 64% said brushes come at the expense of deep thinking. 62% said sessions miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

Pharma is being challenged now, and CEOs should prepare their organizations to rush to address these challenges. We should have a meeting to talk about this.