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Bad Meetings or Meeting Badly


Bad Meetings or Meeting Badly

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Andy Warren
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Bad Meetings or Meeting Badly

Andy
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RP1966
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Project managers I have dealt with have a tendency to throw out far too many 'just in case' meeting invitations. A 'just in case' invitation of technical staff to long meetings with lots of participants is a huge waste of time. The more specialist the role a person is in, the more pronounced this becomes.

Put bluntly - I hate meetings in which I am not an active participant. They are a complete waste of my time when I could be being productive instead.

My issues with meetings are:

1. The meeting organizer failing to consider who needs to attend and who just needs to be aware of the content of the discussion. A lot of the 'just in case' invites can be avoided if the organizer ensures that potential attendees are supplied with information prior to the meeting or are supplied with the minutes afterwards so that they can add their comments. Not everything needs to be done within the meeting.

2. Lack of focus. Too many meetings try to cover too much ground. They are too long and have too many attendees. Meetings should be kept short and focused. The number of attendees needs to be minimized - the less attendees there are the less chance of the meeting descending into a pointless talking shop where more time is spent clarifying or repeating points that have been made rather than addressing the subject of the meeting. Many longer meetings can be split into a number of shorter ones - each one more subject focused and with a better defined attendance criteria allowing for fewer, more active participants.

3. Meetings are for discussion. Information dissemination can be done in many ways. Too many people who like meetings just organize them for the social aspect - which is why they'll have 2 hour meetings and spend the first half hour on pleasantries. Decisions are best made after reflection - a meeting should not try to be the forum in which both discussion and a consequent decision are made unless time constraints mean it cannot be done any other way.

So while I can understand why a meeting organizer may consider it prudent to invite more people to a meeting than actually need to be there, I feel that every effort should be made to ensure that this is avoided. It will make for more productive meetings and far fewer people feeling their time is being wasted.
Gary Varga
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I totally agree with Richard. Focussed meetings allow for a targeted set of participants and are usually shorter. Meetings are what are required when face to face information exchange is required in a collaborative manner i.e. unless you need a discussion then there are more appropriate tools and techniques.

A side effect of too many meetings that I have noticed is the general acceptance that attendees will both be late and just leave when they have another meeting to attend. For me, this begs the question that if they were essential to the meeting being held how can anyone justify the meeting starting or continuing without them?

Gaz

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Beatrix Kiddo
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A side effect of too many meetings that I have noticed is the general acceptance that attendees will both be late and just leave when they have another meeting to attend.

I've noticed this too. They tend to be the sort of people who spend all day in meetings.
skanker
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I think that in many organisations there are a group of people that can be described a 'professional meeting goers'. We all know the type. The more meetings they go to the more important they think they are. It becomes their job. The more meetings they go to the 'busier' they are. The busier they are the more the excuses are rolled out for projects or work streams not moving forward. Also what happens to the work that they are meant to be doing - ie the one that they are hired to do. Other people end up picking up the slack in one way or another.

I do not have a problem with short meetings per se, but I do have a problem with the amount of meetings that seem to happen. I seem to spend a lot of time fending off invitaions to meetings that I do not really need to be at. Worse still I get a 'must attend' invite and find I am only really there for the last agenda item, by which time no one is really interested (half of the people may have left to another meeting!!). I also worry about the amount of meetings I have attended where there are good quality actions that never actually happen. w00t
Gary Varga
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I think that agendas, minutes and action points are a completely different topic albeit totally related. Nothing worse than a pointless meeting that no one agrees what was accepted and nothing gets done due to it.

Gaz

-- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!
chrisn-585491
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Not long ago I spent a year going to meetings. An average week was 30-35 meetings, easily more than a thousand over the course of a year.


Sounds like my definition of purgatory! Ermm

(I'd rather be coding...)
Ed Wagner
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While meetings can be so pervasive at times that they prevent any actual work from being done in a day, they are where the work needed is defined, so I don't view them as wrong if they have a goal and stay on task. The pleasantries referred to earlier is a source of real frustration for me because nothing gets done during that time. The only meetings I truly despise are the ones where nothing gets done.

One style of meeting I encounter is run by the "dictator". The organizer has to be open to ideas of how to accomplish the goal and not just be there to dictate to everyone else. Too many times I've gone to a meeting and the organizer (who doesn't understand data) has already made up their mind an is only demanding how things get done, even though the hours allocated aren't anywhere close to what's required. They should be defining what's required and leave the "how" to the people who understand how to accomplish things.

Another style is run by the "generalizer". They're the ones where the organizer talks in vague generalities designed to keep everyone confused and really define nothing. They avoid answering direct questions and won't commit to anything. Afterwards, the generalizer sends out minutes in a lengthy email that still describe nothing, but in their mind, they've done their job and are wondering why the work isn't done yet.

Ironically, the dictator and generalizer are the ones who will later complain about the cost of all the time spent on their project. What's their answer? Why, it's to have another meeting to talk about it. w00t


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Jack Corbett
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Most of the meetings I attend I would categorize as "Meeting Badly". There is usually a good reason and a need for the meeting, but the meetings are not organized and typically do not have an agenda or end with an action plan. I think at least these things are needed to "meet well":

1. An agenda - sent out ahead of time, hopefully with the meeting invite.
2. A leader who keeps the meeting on topic.
3. Action items handed out, even if they are just, Ron needs to research A and get back to us and Jane needs to meet with Steve to decide B.
4. A summary of the meeting (minutes) and the action items sent out to the attendees after the meeting.

When I'm the one scheduling the meeting I try to do all 4 with #2 always being the hardest.

I believe it is Kevin Kline who has done several presentations on holding meetings that are very good. I couldn't find them online with a quick search, but I'll see if I can find them online and post a link here. I found them very helpful and have recommended them to many people. Unfortunately I've yet to find the best way to recommend them to the people, I've worked with that needed them the most.



Jack Corbett

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Ralph Hightower
Ralph Hightower
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I was on one project where there was a weekly two hour status meeting. The meetings generally started fifteen minutes late because she was futzing with her laptop and projector; her meetings also never ended on time.

If it takes a meeting organizer fifteen minutes to set up a computer and projector, set it up fifteen minutes prior to the start of the meeting. Be prepared to start the meeting on time and end the meeting on time; having an agenda helps with having an organized meeting. Holding people hostage while one sets up for the meeting demonstrates a lack of courtesy and respect for the meeting participants.

Her meetings were always a time vampire.
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