Effective Meetings

There are some things my office is very good at. One of these is meetings. We’re terribly good about meetings. We set them up weeks in advance, we send out notices, keeping a variety of time-zones satisfied, we block conference rooms, we book audio bridges, we accept, decline and tentatively accept meetings, sometimes we propose new times, and occasionally we cancel. When we don’t cancel, we have punctual and predictable attendance. No-shows are practically unheard-of… except in a few types of meetings, where they are common.

We have many types of meetings. There’s team meetings, staff meetings, department meetings, site meetings, business update meetings, project meetings, program meetings, bug scrub meetings, open forums, virtual meetings, live meetings, F2F meetings, and 1:1s (read – one-on-ones)… to name a few. Our meetings range from 30-minute sessions with a single person in a room that seats six (not talking to himself – the other participant is on the phone, of course); to 20 people and 20 laptops and a super sophisticated overhead projector and half a dozen polycom phones cluttering a room that seats 16; to a 500-strong audience that throngs into the cafeteria to watch a presentation on huge side screens, with mikes strung all over the place for people to ask questions, an interactive session that lasts two long hours.

Whatever the case may be, we’re very particular about the infrastructure. Our meetings start on time, they end on time, the projectors and sound system always work, we always have wireless network connectivity, we never spend more than five minutes setting up and tearing down connections.

Likewise, we’re also very good at trainings. We have almost as many types of trainings as we do meetings (and I’m not talking about subject matter here) and sometimes it becomes difficult to distinguish between a meeting, a training, a workshop, a roadshow, and a tea-break (to name the most popular forms of interaction). No sooner has a new “tool” (have you noticed how nowadays anything on the computer is generically a “tool”?) come out, than there’s a whole series of trainings associated with it. Once you wade through all the training, you find that all the buttons have been moved around, but other than that it’s basically the same as the old tool.

Conducting surveys and collecting feedback is another favourite pastime in my office. We have surveys (or sometimes feedback – and sometimes both) on office facilities, coffee and tea vending machines, trainings, computer systems support, quarterly events, shuttle services, cafeteria standards (everyone loves those!), managers, employees, blue boys, the postal department and the impact of the monsoons on work/life balance.

When no survey has been done for a while, things are bound to get exciting soon, because, in all likelihood, there’s a particularly exotic survey in the pipeline, keeping all the “surveyors” busy. Now, if you’re thinking, just how exotic can a survey be, let me assure you that some very interesting things are possible by combining surveys and feedback with meetings and trainings.

  • For example, once, we had a survey to find out exactly how much time people spend in meetings. It turned out that, across the board, people spend about 40% of their time in meetings.
  • The survey also tried to find out whether meetings were generally felt to be effective. The answer was, generally, no: too many participants, too broad and unspecified an agenda, no clear decision making or decision makers, too much overlap in subject matter or scope.
  • Guess what they did with this survey? The created a mandatory training (mandatory!) for ALL employees to explain how to hold “effective” meetings.
  • Then, they collected feedback on the efficacy of the training on effective meetings.
  • Next, I’m guessing, they’re going to do a survey on the efficacy of the survey that was conducted regarding the efficacy of meetings.

Like I said, there are some things my company is extremely good at – and we just keep doing what we do best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: