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Putting Meetings out of Their Misery

Topics: Work Culture

Last year Best Buy made headlines for its “results-oriented work environment” (aka ROWE), which is a fancy way of saying: “We don’t care when or where you work, as long you get the job done.”

As part of this work/life initiative, Best Buy put the kibosh on unproductive meetings. First the company decreed that meetings be held only as a last resort, when there’s no better way to get the work done. Then it made attendance of all meetings optional (yes, optional), with call-in numbers available to anyone working remotely.

But Best Buy doesn’t hold a monopoly on stopping the meeting madness. IBM boasts meeting-free Fridays. A number of small businesses and corporate Goliaths I’ve freelanced for live and die by an unspoken “no meetings before 10 a.m.” rule. And thanks to Web conferencing software like WebEx, countless companies are trading in mandatory face time for virtual meetings. So does this mean team meetings are headed the way of the dodo? Doubtful. “I wonder if gathering in groups to discuss and plan is somehow stamped into our DNA,” says Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. “Did cavemen and cavewomen have meetings? Probably. But I bet they didn’t check their BlackBerries while the boss was talking.”

Michelle Goodman, author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube. Her articles and essays also appear in Salon, Bust, Bitch, Bark, and the Seattle Times. She regularly blogs about career change and self-employment at

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