I hate your meeting!

April 01, 2014

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I HATE meetings.  And specifically, I HATE your meetings.  Hate is a strong word I know, but if I used the stronger words I wanted to, It might not be safe to read at work.  So why do I hate your meeting?

First you invite me to a meeting without a purpose, agenda or goals of the meeting.  Look, my time is valuable.  Your time is valuable.  So for that hour you have asked me to the meeting, I have to decide if there is something more important for the company I should be doing.  I am sorry, but that is the way it works.  So if you want me to come to your meeting, you better tell me why it is worth the hour (or more) I could be doing something else.  OR a better question, do you even need me at the meeting?  Or did you invite the whole team so we can sit there while two things are hashed out that don’t affect half of us there?

When we have a meeting there is a cost.  That is right, there is the cost of the people in the meeting.  For example, I know what an hour of my time costs the company.  It is a simple formula I use.  I take my salary, divided by 52 weeks and then divided by 40 hours and come up with what the company roughly pays me for an hour (note, I don’t figure in benefits, overhead or other stuff, I just want a rough idea what and hour of my time is worth to the company.)  So what is your hour rate?  So when you hold a meeting where you have invited 10 other people keep that in mind … it can be a very expensive meeting.  And what if I had to travel to attend your meeting?  With today’s technology, that is unlikely, but I have traveled to meetings before that were a complete waste of time, so I get to tack on a ton of travel expenses as well to the cost of a worthless meeting.

But let’s say it has been decided we need a meeting, we have a purpose for the meeting but you want to finalize the agenda.  You email everyone a draft of the meeting agenda to see if that is OK with everyone.  We spend a week or a few hours at least emailing back and forth trying to nail down the details of the meeting.  You send a document, others respond in email, then we have to figure out what the latest document is or who was left off the email thread and cut scene I have 50+ emails just talking about what we are going to talk about in the meeting.  Finally, we have an agenda.

Then the day comes for your meeting.  I get there (in person or dialed in) on time and ready to go for the meeting.  Not everyone is there yet, so you say we should wait 5 more minutes?  Not only are you wasting my time, but you have told me that I am really not that important for the meeting or that the people not there are more important that me.  Maybe they are, but most times they are not.  So we adjust to the people that have horrible time management skills.  Thanks for that.

So after 5 minutes, we are running late and you start the meeting.  The people you were waiting for never did show (not sure why) so not only are they not here, but we just wasted 5 minutes.  Then we have to project the laptop on the screen or get connected to the online meeting tool of choice.  You can’t figure out how to share your screen or get the projector to work, so we waste another 5 minutes messing with the technology before you finally give up and just email the document around to everyone.  Nobody thought to show up to the meeting a few minutes before the actual start and make sure the tech worked.

Now we are 10 minutes behind and you keep apologizing and but we have a ton to get through in the next 50 minutes.  We kind of follow the agenda, we kind of decide on a few things, we kind of assign people with follow-up action items, but we didn’t get through everything so you say you will just email the items and we can just email around to get to a decision.  Wait, we could have done all this through email?

So the meeting is over, you type up the notes and recap.  You remind the people that were assigned stuff what they were assigned.  You try to give a decent recap for those that missed the meeting or offer to follow-up with them one on one (nice, so you get to do the meeting all over again just for one person.)  But then we all forget the email and the actions and we go on to our next worthless meeting or go do real work.  Then we see an email from you next week to start the cycle all over again so we can see who did not do the things you asked them to do and we slowly slog through the project to get it done.

And when I total up all of the time I spent reading the emails, documents, summaries and actually attending the meeting, the cost is amazing.  I am really sorry, but that is why I hate your meetings.

But wait!

I didn’t just come here to complain, I came to help.  There is a better way.

What if you scheduled the meeting and posted the agenda in an online collaboration tool that everyone involved had access to?  What if people could chime in on the agenda or even edit the actual document without 50+ emails to get lost in?  What if you were able to confirm everyone that would be able to attend the meeting and then adjust the agenda accordingly?  What if you made sure the tech worked 5 minutes before the meeting?  What if you started the meeting on time and made those that come late realize you don’t wait?  What if you went through the agreed upon agenda and kept the meeting focused? What if as people were assigned action items, you assigned them their tasks in the collaboration tool with due dates and reminders?  What if you posted the meeting notes to the central place so those that missed the meeting could just go there to see what they missed and what was assigned to them without the need for a follow-up meeting?  What if you can then follow the tasks throughout the week and know what has been done and what hasn’t?  That meeting would be worth my time.  I would LOVE that meeting.

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