Can a group that doesn't have a function be dysfunctional?
- the Blue Skunk
I noticed this year that the number of meetings I've been required to attend has gone down and the meetings themselves have grown shorter. The "informational" role meetings have played is being replaced by e-mail and a great deal of collaborative work is now done online. State-wide meetings are mostly held via computer, telephone, or video teleconference.
A couple of groups of which I am a member seem to be struggling to find a purpose for continuing. One continues to meet primarily for the social value, I believe; the other simply out of tradition.
For some reason, a tremendous amount of attention has been paid in our district to groups developing "norms." A lovely buzz word - "norms." I had always considered group norms to be behaviors that developed naturally over time - "norm-al" behaviors. But I guess "norms" sounds nicer than "rules," even if rules are what are actually being created.
Ironically, the less important a group's reason for being, the more stress placed on the group's process. I don't care how many "norms" are created, unless there is a purpose for the group, its meetings are time-burners during which everyone just secretly checks their smartphones anyway.
A committee, group, task force, whatever. can have value if it provides a means for:
- serious input into planning and problem-solving efforts - real give and take - with a range of perspecitives and areas of expertise represented
- the exchange of nuanced information and points-of-view that easily get lost in translation via electronic communications - especially that which is highly value-laden
- reporting that is taken more seriously due the public nature of the reporting venue (shame-avoidance is great motivator, and thus a good reason for meetings)
- training that is complex, essential and time-critical
One important reason meetings are still held is that some members of any group would just "never get around to reading the memo" if all communication were done electronically. At a F2F meeting there is at least the illusion of having all members' eyes and ears. If those members attend. And they are not checking their smartphones.
So, what meetings do you attend that still have value - and why?