Do you ever go to meetings? Do you enjoy them? Are they productive?
I've noticed that Japan has a lot of meetings. There are meetings for everything: daily meetings, weekly meetings, monthly meetings, and lots of special purpose meetings. There are meetings to discuss business strategy, plans for the future, and to share information between employees. One of my students told me that he only spends about 20% of his time at work doing his job. The other 80% is spent at meetings! I even went to a meeting once for planning a barbecue party. Of course, that meeting was fun, but it was still a meeting.
Is it really necessary? Currently, Japan is trying really hard to reduce overtime work for its staff. Japanese people are working too hard, and it causes problems for their health. There are lots of ideas and strategies for reducing work hours, but to me it seems clear that the biggest problem is time spent in unnecessary meetings and reports. Still, from what I can see, there isn't much focus on Japanese business to reduce those meetings. In fact, one of my students told me that when his company's overseas office requested reducing the number of reports they had to send to the Tokyo head office, the request was denied. The head office still feels that all of those reports are necessary.
I'm interested in this topic, because I think it is connected with the Japanese personality. There aren't as many meetings for AEON foreign teachers, so I don't get to experience it directly, but I enjoy hearing about the issue from my students. One of the things I like and respect about Japanese people, is that they care about group success and teamwork. Americans focus on individual success. I prefer the Japanese way of thinking, but I think it's probably the root cause for all the meetings. Communication among a team is important, and with the strong focus on teams and groups, Japanese business has developed a culture of one million meetings to improve team communication.
In general, that seems great. Coworkers should communicate. You should communicate with clients. It's a good thing, but too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. If you own a restaurant, and you get new wine for your menu, the bartenders and waiters need to know about the new wine. But, the dishwasher doesn't need to know about that. The bartender doesn't need to know about the new washing machine either, and the chef doesn't need to know about the new happy hour campaign. Having all of them sit through a long weekly meeting while you share all that information with all of them, doesn't seem like the best use of time.
Of course, sometimes it's unavoidable. That brings me to my next point, and I hope all of you take this idea to your boss, and start making this change. In Japan, meetings are really boring. In America... Well they're still really boring, but they have one strong advantage. Donuts. In most American meetings, especially long meetings, there are always a lot of snacks and coffee. Donuts, bagels, croissants, cookies, muffins, etc. Those snacks aren't just for snack time either, they're for any time. It's ok in American business to eat snacks during a long a meeting. Bartenders don't have a lot of meetings, but we did have one monthly meeting, and the boss always brings a big box of donuts and a lot of coffee. Please tell your boss you want donuts!
How do you feel about meetings? Do you feel that all of the information shared is really important, do you feel like you're doing it because "That's just what you're supposed to do"? Do you think it would be ok to have fewer meetings, or shorter meetings? And most importantly, do you want to eat donuts in your meetings?
Of course, Americans are also very overweight...