Monday, November 3, 2014

10 meetings

Meetings.  some are necessary, many are not.  As long as there has been business, there have been meetings.  Getting together business.  Here are a few meetings you are probably involved with.  It's ok.  There isn't anything you can do.

10 - Why am I even here? - The obvious meeting.  The one you were called to that doesn't appear to have anything to do with you.  Even better, you aren't sure who invited you.  Two ways to handle this meeting.  One:  Up front mention that you probably don't belong here.  This is no fun, but probably a more effective use of your time if not the companies.  Two:  Own it!  Flog that meeting with all of your uninformed insights.  Make them explain all the processes to you.  Get them to give you an 'Overview' of what's going on.  In short pretend to be management.

9 - This is an email - Often managers will call meetings that should be emails.  These are easily identified by the fact that your actual input is not only not encouraged, but completely unnecessary.
This meeting is for the manager to spout off the top of his head something he or she should have thoughtfully written down in an email.  The problem is of course that once you write something down, you can be held to it.  If you sing it in a meeting, you are able to spin and adjust what was said.  Business as usual.

8 - derailed meetings - The meeting started out with good intentions, but someone there is going to turn this meeting into a grindingly long bout of minutiae that will get nothing done for those that are unfortunate enough to remain conscious.  Meeting derailers are people that really think they should be in a higher managerial position than they currently are.  They will interrupt with the same feel of authority that the organizer of the meeting has.  They have important things to say...they think.  The only way to improve this meeting is to stop it.

7 - One on One - Meetings are like farts.  The fewer participants the better it is for everyone.  The one on one meeting can be the most important ones because there are only 2 communicators talking and listening.  The chances of misreading what was said or intended are pretty low.  Normally in a one on one situation one party will do most of the talking.  They will carry the burden of imparting understanding to the other party.  With any luck the same manager will have experience on both ends depending on the meeting.

6 - I'm lonely - A pathetic meeting where the manager is just bored.  A bored manager is very tempted to start improving things.  This can be very dangerous.  It's fine to improve things that have very clear and obvious short comings, but when you start improving things that are working, you may end up improving them right into uselessness.

5 - Useful meeting - I will admit there are useful meetings that exist.  The skillful manager calls them to get information quickly.  They usually consist of 2 - 5 people and are specific to a task or event.  The reason they are useful is because they are quick and to the point and disseminate information quickly.  They don't waste a lot of time with conjecture or finger pointing.  There is usually a plan of action that follows the useful meeting that is clear for each member.  They come in many varieties and you can recognize them after they have happened.  You feel like your time wasn't wasted AND you have a good idea of what you should be doing.  The difference between this meeting and a well worded email is that the manger is usually looking for a plan of action and that requires input.  No email.

4 - Stand up - This is the Jekyl and Hyde of meetings.  You never know if it is going to be a good meeting or if it will expand into a worthless waste of time.  A good stand up will include people standing up mentioning quickly their status on whatever project they are working on.  Nothing more or less.  The person running the meeting will inform everyone of anything that needs to be widely known.  The meeting is then done.  5-10 minutes is the most this meeting should be.  If this meeting goes out of control, it becomes a much longer 20 - 30 minutes, and it involves small details of other parts of a project that have nothing to do with you AND too many people, around 10-15.  You know when there are too many people when everyone else looks bored and disinterested because they don't want to know your status.

3 - I'm hungry - This is the meeting that is held during lunch.  a 'working lunch'.  These are brutal if they are an actual meeting held during lunch.  If they are just an excuse to give you lunch on the other hand, then they are ok.  Often the lunch meeting is a sales pitch by some vendor and they want to buy everyone lunch in exchange for your attention.  It's rarely worth it.  On the other hand, at least it's lunch, so it can't be too bad.

2 - Have you got 5 minutes? - The most insidious meeting there is.  5 minutes is about how long it takes to get nothing done.  The amount of times a 5 minute meeting was less than 10 minutes I could count on one hand of a Taiwanese factory worker.  Once in a while it is exactly just a point of information or something that needed some attention, but I have yet to hear the words 'hey have you got a minute?' from a manager and not cringe.

1 - Brainstorm - One of the few good meetings there is, if it's directed in a way that rewards creativity.  Very hard to pull off because one or two strong personalities will usually dominate the brainstorm.  If someone can moderate and draw out the opinions of everyone invited sometimes you can  bring out some great ideas and really get something to build direction from.  Otherwise you might be spitting in the wind.

There they are.  Meetings.  Nuff said.

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