Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Really Stupid Meetings

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I am writing this column while sitting in another really stupid meeting about technology issues that could be addressed in about ten minutes. We’ve set aside three hours for this discussion. I am losing my mind.

So how do you vet ideas, kick-off projects, discuss compensation and re-organize? You go to meetings – and then you go to more meetings. And then you go to even more meetings.

Are meetings the best way to solve problems? Absolutely not; in fact, meetings make things worse, make problems bigger and empower idiots to stake influence claims on processes and outcomes. (The guy speaking now is an idiot who thinks he knows something about server farms; he’d be better off working on a pig farm.)

Do we need to endlessly talk about hardware and software upgrades? What about storage? How about open source software? Should you upgrade our ERP suite – after you’ve spent three hundred million dollars deploying it?

What are the issues here? Do you have the money, can you define the risk and is the impact measurable? What else do you need to know?

After impact/cost/risk is assessed, meetings serve several purposes. First, they validate a decision that’s already been made by smart people too polite to tell everyone that the decision has been made and no additional discussion is necessary, thank you very much.

Meetings permit managers and executives to shout about how inclusive they are. They stretch out the decision-making process to acceptable process/outcome life cycles: everyone knows you cannot make big decisions fast, right? Meetings also provide a forum for deranged people – especially in political cultures that tolerate the participation of deranged professionals (because they’d rather put up with them then fire them).

Meetings have become the full-time job of meeting planners. There are actually people on the staffs of CIOs that do nothing but coordinate meetings.

Internal meetings, external meetings, town hall meetings, leadership meetings, executive meetings, project meetings, strategy meetings, vendor meetings, metrics meetings, performance meetings and even meta-meetings – meetings about meetings about meetings – like watching a television picture of a television picture in a television picture.

What should we do? Can anyone get me out of this stupid meeting? (Another guy is now talking about viruses and all I can think about are the viruses I wish he had.)

Let’s keep meetings short; let’s use our governance committees to publish a rule about the length of meetings. Let’s say that no meeting can last more than 30 minutes – and let’s give door prizes to anyone who runs a shorter meeting (and pistol whip everyone who runs longer ones).

Let’s remove the chairs from all of the conference rooms. People hate to stand around. The meeting I’m in now would have ended two hours ago if everyone was forced to stand. Brilliant.

Never serve food or drink at a meeting. People hate to stand around without anything to eat or drink. Even more brilliant.

Schedule meetings from 7AM – 8AM and 6PM – 7PM. Get the governance cops to make this a rule. See how many meetings instantly go away.

Document meetings: publish the minutes of the meeting exposing how the time was spent and who said what. This is what a lot of churches do when they publish the names of their members and the amount of money they contributed to the church. When they do this, somehow mysteriously contributions increase. Maybe if we expose Larry for the idiot that he is, he might keep quiet – or avoid meetings altogether.

Get a digital damage meter that calculates the cost of each meeting as they’re happening. Such a meter would display the cost of the meeting – on flat panel displays all over the room — by calculating the salaries of the participants and the time they’re spending in the meeting. Just imagine what the cost of a stupid senior offsite would be?

What I need someone to do for me right now is call the meeting planner and inform them of an emergency I’m now facing – an emergency that will get me out of this really stupid meeting. Please save me.

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