You could count all the words of Spanish I know on one hand, but “No Mas!” is a phrase I remember well (thanks to an historical boxing match last century.) But it took on a new relevance this past week.
This stemmed from a TED talk, “How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings” in which David Grady coins the phrase “Mindless Acceptance Syndrome” or “MAS.” As you might expect from the talk title, he is referring here to an unthinking acceptance of attendance at meetings, something he definitely sees as needing to stop. If, like most people, your life is plagued by meetings, you will find it worth the less than 7 minutes investment of your time. For me, though, it had a deeper significance than just meetings.
There were two primary, ultimately inextricably linked, reasons for this.
- MAS seems a clever synonym for conventional wisdom, and the blind deference we all too often give it.
- The statement “I wish I had those two hours back” and the recognition that this unproductive time is actually “stealing.”
Attendance at meetings is just one of any number of examples of both. Even if you have ever considered the organisational value of the time your people spend in meetings, you are unlikely to have ever considered the personal value of that time. That’s because the oversight is rooted in a classic MAS: that of seeing your people as just a resource. You can hardly be blamed for that, for management and accounting tradition compel you to treat your people as costs. Yet, ultimately this is innately counter-productive.
You need only consider the extent to which investment decisions are justified by reducing employee numbers, to see this. How dehumanising is that? People are the life-blood of your organisation: what keeps it functioning. Your employee engagement, continuous improvement and enhanced productivity initiatives all confirm you know this. They entail recognising and respecting the contribution of your people. So any actions which send a different message undermine those efforts and everything else you are striving for. Thus, while it’s undoubtedly true to say you cannot you expect your people to be more productive if you fail to recognise the negative personal impact that meetings can have, there is much more to it than that.
That is why it is time to pause and consider what this and other MAS are costing your organisation, and, like Roberto Duran, to say “No MAS!” But, for you, the consequences will be far more positive. You might start, as Grady suggests, by reviewing the nature of meetings in your organisation, but that is diving into the detail. I suggest, rather, that you start by recognising that your people are investing their lives in working for you.
When you do, you will understand that ‘Every Individual Matters.’ Perhaps then, you will be ready to explore how my ‘Every Individual Matters ‘ Model will help.