When to have meetings

I’ve written another super fucking obvious article because I had nothing to do tonight but fuck it, I wrote it anyways.

Witten communication assumes that the person writing can articulate themselves.

It assumes that they have put aside sufficient cognitive resources to be able to combine the right words and think about how they will be received.

It assumes that the communicator is not afraid of being misunderstood.

It assumes so many things that are so many times not true.

The most critical things you want to get out your team are often ones that are hard to articulate. Sometimes it’s nothing but sometimes it is.

Everyone is ready for the release but you just don’t feel like the UX is there yet but you can’t quite articulate why.

It maybe a concept that you don’t know the terminology for. It maybe that you’re around experts of that topic and you’re embarrassed to say it the wrong way. It maybe that you don’t have all the data to support yourself and you don’t feel comfortable just putting it out there.

Or most often, it’s just an unformed thought and it doesn’t come out until you feel safe enough to blurt it out and you most definitely aren’t going to do that over email. You aren’t going to do it through Slack or chat or Sqwiggle.

All these platforms assume clarity.

It may not be obvious but have you ever to try to brainstorm over email or chat about a vague topic? What about when there’s a fundamental issue in the person’s approach behind the task you’re being given? You ever try to sort that out over chat? If so, you would know what I’m talking about.

That’s what in person meetings are for.

When you get into a room with your trusted peers and get the confidence you need to let that idea out, you may allow someone else to build on that and another person to build on that and then that leads to someone doing usability tests with another user group and that will finally get the data that you needed if you were to communicate that in written form.

In person meetings are where all those weird malformed ideas come out. They are for all those things that don’t fit well into our written form of communication.

Ideally you would build a sensitivity towards that confusion and immediately push yourself to get in the room with the right people by yourself.

To do this, you need to lay down a foundation of trust with your peers. That’s very hard to do.

That’s why I find Slack, chat, remote working so dangerous. You assume clarity is the default state of your workforce when it’s clearly not.

I find those channels are great for articulating and executing a clear thought process. The problem is that we often mistake confusion for clarity. We give it a quick pass especially when an email comes from someone with authority.

It’s not that you can’t get things done in these other methods. You can when you have clarity. They are disastrous when you do not. You keep moving with your blinders on.

What I think works best is regular meetings that allow the group to glue the unclear and the clear.

Yes, they can be inefficient at times but net-net, IMO it’s worth it as long as the people involved know how to conduct themselves.

A possible counterargument to this would be that people should just work very hard to have clarity before hand.

I’d say there are two issues with that.

  1. Most people just aren’t able to arrive at the point of clarity by themselves.
  2. You miss out on all the other potential great ideas from the rest of your group when you don’t involve them in that process.

I don’t suggest meeting for every single thing but the more unclear you are about a topic, the more you should expose the question you’re asking, your way of thinking so far, your research, and then call for a meeting for help on getting you to a point of clarity.