Sunset on the pub based retro?

I have been having a lot of online meetings lately and they obviously have their challenges.

Rather strangely though, online meetings often seem more efficient than face to face meetings.

There is no waiting for a meeting room and no trouble booking a room. Best of all, people are eager to get through the agenda and get out of the meeting.

I was wonder if, when people are face to face, they might start to expect the same etiquette and efficiency that they expect online.

But not all meetings are meant to be efficient, something I had forgotten that until the week, when I had a couple of inefficient but useful meetings online.

In each case, there was no real agenda and the conversation was not focused on coming to a conclusion. It was not quite social and not quite work focused.

It felt familiar but not in line with my recent experience with efficient online experiences.

Today I realised that I used to have a lot of the meetings outside the office, in a pub (bar), in a cafe or going for a walk.

Now I am wondering if these “pub based meetings” are going to fade into the sunset, or if they are actually a necessary thing that needs to make a come-back.

A sunset in Western Australia – where pub based meetings are a formal requirement

I am not sure if you have the same experience as me:

  • Meetings in the office are formal and official. People commit to the agenda, complete action items and they are prepared to back up what they say.
  • Meetings outside the office involve a token excuse for being there (eating, drinking, exercising together). The pace is slower and people are often more open to expressing half-formed or controversial ideas. They are also nowhere as likely to act on action items or stick to the correct agenda. While these meetings are inefficient, they do serve an important purpose – we recharge our energy, discuss topics that we are pondering before reaching a conclusion and they give us permission to talk more openly without fearing consequences.
  • Bad meetings are where you get the worst of both of the above, without the benefits.

Now that meetings are online, I wonder if we still have the same balance.

I guess the real answer is to become more mature – we can create a psychologically safe space while also expecting accountability and responsibility. If we just grow up and act like adults, we will be fine.

Of course when I say “act like adults” I do not actually mean really act the way adults typically act. Adults start feuds, play politics and generally spend half their time whining about things they could fix if they wanted too.

No, I mean that we should act the way children imagine that adults would act in a professional workplace.

On the face of it then, we can do without the pub based meetings if we just decide to be better people. We just need to be open, friendly, respectful and accountable at the same time, all the time.

I agree that we need to psychological safety, radical candor or something similar in order to do that.

My challenge is that I have often used “going to a Cafe for a chat” as a way to do so.

Now I am wondering if we can build a powerful team culture effectively in a changing world without a shared, but artificial, “out of office” experience.


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