The Why #86 Why do my work meetings never seem to be productive?

By Dan Monheit 17th May 2024

4 min readMay 17, 2024

Question submitted by Morgan, Brighton

There’s just never. Enough. Time.

Whether it’s a ‘quick 15 minute’ sit-down on the office couch or an arduous 90 minutes stuck in stuffy, fluorescent-lit purgatory, it’s damn near impossible to leave a meeting feeling you’ve actually accomplished anything. If we’re honest, it’s all just a bit of a blur! One minute you were talking about weekend plans and showing photos of your cousin’s new puppy. The next you’re wrapping things up because it’s 12:30pm and that means lunch.

In the middle, you hardly got a chance to cover all of the important bits that were the reason the meeting was happening in the first place. So the “bits” get pushed into next week’s meeting, and the one after that, only for this scenario to play out over and over again until one day you finally retire and move to the Sunshine Coast.

What on earth is going on here, and why is it so hard to get anything done?


Bike-Shedding, also known as Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, refers to our tendency to focus on trivial, meaningless issues while ignoring more important ones.

In 1957, researcher C. Northcote Parkinson coined the term when he sat in on a planning committee meeting to observe how the group spent their time discussing various matters from an agenda. What Parkinson noticed was that the committee spent an inordinate amount of time deciding what colour the communal Bike-Shed should be painted compared to the little time they spent deciding on whether they should be setting up an atomic power plant. Yes, really. From here, the term Bike-Shedding was born.

While Bike-Shedding is all too common in group decision-making processes, we can often ‘Bike-Shed’ ourselves too. Are you spending an absurd amount of time agonising between two virtually identical images for the cover of a presentation you haven’t quite got around to writing yet? Or perhaps you’ve just bought a new car with all the shiny bells and whistles but forgot to confirm how much petrol it guzzles or whether it will fit into your garage? Yep, you’re a Bike-Shedder too.

Back to you Morgan. Yes that dog photo is important and yes of course you want to hear about your colleagues’ weekend down at the family farm, but it might be wise to time box your agenda items or appoint someone in the group to specifically keep everyone focused on what they’re there to discuss.

For Challenger Brands in categories with tricky entry points, look for ways to be more Bike-Shed than atomic power plant. Simple language, easy options and intuitive ways to get started can be enough to get people solving the big issues before they even realise it. If you’re actually in the business of selling bike sheds, just keep doing what you’re doing!

Behaviourally Yours,

Dan Monheit

PS If you missed the last edition, you can still check out why we seem to get every red light when we’re running late here.



Forwarded this? Subscribe to join thousands of others who receive The Why fortnightly.

Bad Decisions Podcast
To learn more about Behavioural Science, tune into the Bad Decisions podcast.

Got a question?
Is there something you’ve always wondered about?
Send it through to

Want more?
Check out the latest piece in Dan’s fortnightly content series with Mumbrella, exploring why Challenger Brands should aim for big impacts on small audiences.

The Why, The Book
If you’re a fan of having your curly questions answers, secure your copy of the newly released Amazon #1 Best Seller ‘The Why, The Book’ by Dan Monheit here.




We’re an independent creative agency helping brands capitalise on the why, when, where, what and how of human behaviour.