Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Why anybody who attends a meeting with no agenda should be shot

As promised in my You might be an email junkie if... post, I've finally got round to an attack on corporate inconvenience #2 - meetings!

Many of you will be familiar with the problem.  If you don't think there is a problem, then maybe you ARE the problem.  Everybody sits somewhere on the 'love-meetings-hate-meetings' spectrum.  I personally dislike meetings.  Some people justify their existence with meetings, turning a 2 minute face-to-face into an expensive, hour long pow-wow with a dozen slightly confused people.

Why I don't like meetings
  • Decision by committee is rarely productive.  People have roles and responsibilities for a reason.
  • No agenda means no direction, too many tangents and a lot of yawning.
  • Granularity.  Obsession with working out all of the minutiae in the meeting.  A 30 minute meeting become a 3 hour meeting.
  • Value for money.  Multiply the number of attendees by a ballpark hourly rate by the number of hours spent in the meeting to calculate cost.  Would you show the figure to your boss?
  • Failure to set action points makes the whole thing worthless.
  • Opportunity cost.  What could you be doing if you weren't in that meeting?
  • Mobile devices.  Ban them.  If you need to have a meeting, the spirit should be present, not just the body.
Someone once emailed Chuck Norris about a mandatory CMMI meeting. Chuck Norris emailed a blank reply with no subject and one attachment… a roundhouse kick to the face.


Solutions
  • Ask if a meeting is really the answer to the problem?  Many problems can be solved by individual face-to-face interactions.
  • Refuse to attend meetings with no agenda (emergency CAB meetings and a few others excepted as these have an implied agenda). Commit to using the 'decline' button more.
  • The staff or systems which manage room bookings should reject bookings without an accompanying agenda. No agenda = no meeting.
  • Use a money clock to easily identify cost and maintain focus.
  • Assign actions - clearly.
  • Take minutes, distribute and use them.
  • Ask if the meeting was worth it.
  • Management should run spot checks - examining the agenda, attendee list, minutes, action points, costs and results.  5 minutes every month can keep meetings from regularly spiralling out of control.
Of course, because life is never simple, there are always exceptions.

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