May 12, 2009, 2:31 PM — Working on a project for a collaboration service, I just coined the Law of Meeting Coordination: MV=P2. This formula stands for Mail Volume = Participants Squared. If you have two people involved, you'll generate four emails. 10 participants? Around 100 emails will go flying back and forth.
Some people will just send “yes” and be done with it, thereby lowering the mail volume (MV). Those people are balanced by those attendees who argue about the date, the time, and the location, generating far more than their share of emails. The only good thing is those people tend not to show up for the meetings they forced into the date, time, and location they wanted. That's good because those people are pains and drag meetings down faster than they drag down the meeting planning process.
Solution? Some type of group calendar system that allows everyone to see when meetings are planned and make comments inside the planning system. Emails are only used to remind people to check the group calendar and planning system when changes appear.
This works better than emails because people can see their choices at the same time everyone else can see them. Comments should be publicly listed, so meeting whiners will not send messages to individuals whining about what other participants are saying and doing. When those whiners send out of band emails, and they will, you have to be sure and post them publicly or at least threaten to do so.
Using a centralized collaboration tool for meeting planning will, in many companies, cut your inbox volume by a noticeable amount. Of course, if your company is like that, there are too many meetings already. Maybe you should start a series of meetings to cut down on meetings.
At least now we have a name for this mess: the Law of Meeting Coordination.