March 4, 2014
I haven’t posted for a fortnight as have been so busy for the past few months that I’ve not had time to write. And I enjoy it so much I don’t want it to become a chore. A necessity. So recent posts have often been ones I’ve drafted earlier and all I’ve had to do is press “Publish” and hey presto, a blog post.
However, this week I have been in a meeting which had been arranged with some difficulty to get everyone around the table. Time was precious as there was much to do and deadlines looming. This meeting was billed as a critical necessity. Everything else had stalled whilst we waited for the outputs of this meeting.
Did we maximise the use of our time? Did we buggery. The leader of the meeting was late. Then we spent the next 15 minutes deciding who would take on the various assigned roles – timekeeper, (self explanatory), snow patrol (stops people going off track), herder (brings them back from the toilet), observer (reports back at the end of the meeting how it went). In this particular company apparently this is the norm. And unlike school, there was no staring at feet when volunteers were asked for – people willingly assigned themselves roles.
So at last we are ready to start the meeting – only used up 25% of the allocated 2 hours so far – and then we get down to business. Or not. There is a discussion lasting a good ten minutes between two people about who is ‘accountable’ for this project. Versus who is ‘responsible’. The nuances are lost on me and frankly irrelevant to everyone else at the meeting apart from the two debating it. This is something that should be discussed ‘offline’ (*groan*). But surely the ‘snow patrol’ person will tell then to shut up and get on with the meeting? No, of course they don’t. They don’t want to interrupt the two most senior people there.
So of course I can’t hold myself in and suggest we focus on exactly what it is that we want to have decided within the next 80 minutes. I am looked at as if I have come from Mars. “Well we won’t know that until we’ve had the discussions.” I realise I am not going to get anywhere. I get it that you need to discuss stuff, but surely you have to ask yourself WHY? Why are we discussing this – what is the point of it? We don’t discuss which theatre show is best because we know it’s not relevant to our work. Surely, we only discuss things because they inform our decision making. There has to be a decision at the end of it. Even if that decision is “We can’t make a decision on this as we haven’t got enough information so XYZ will research this and report back so that we can make a decision.” It’s all about the decision making for me.
But it was all about the information sharing for them. And so we spent the next hour listening to presentations basically. On stuff I’d already read because it was all freely available. No valuable insights or reinterpretations, just the data. No actual discussion on what the data might mean. Or how it might be used. Just data. And when the meeting ‘wrapped up’ with 5 minutes still to go, the ‘observer’ fed back how useful it had been and how much ‘engagement’ and ‘energy about the project’ there was in the room. I nearly engaged some bicep energy and smacked him.
I thought that it had been a waste of time. Not completely because it was great to meet people who I have only seen on email, but in terms of outcomes. All that information could have been sent to us to read when it suited us (which would have meant we didn’t have to wait over a month to get everyone together), and then we could have met and discussed what we think it means and what we are going to do with it. Someone else I know who works in a different company warns everyone she is in ‘Driver’ mode at the beginning of meetings – I love it. She wants to get things done and in the nicest possible way she is alerting everyone this isn’t just information sharing – we have to actually get somewhere at the end of it.