Useless Meetings . . .

Domesticated 097

“Meeting Season” is . . . ongoing

Nominating Committee meetings, Club Executive Committee meetings, Contest . . . So many meetings. We’re tempted to ask, are any of them necessary? Are some useful?

If we must attend a meeting, what will keep us out of a “black hole” of wasted time and pointless nonsense? Even better, if we develop some insane desire to hold a meeting, what can we do to ensure it’s worth the attendees’ time? Are we good stewards of our members’ time?

A TI workshop guide* advises we should 1. State the purpose  . . . 5. Develop an agenda.” The purpose is why we are meeting: to reach a decision, analyze a problem, train, resolve a conflict, or for some other definable, concrete reason.

Keeping a meeting short and on track requires:

  • An effective leader who keeps control of the meeting.

  • A written agenda published well in advance.

  • Time limits for each item on the agenda.

  • Votes or plans as endpoints for each agenda item.

Each agenda item should lead to a decision or a plan – with a time for implementation and assignment of responsibilities. Every agenda item should be specific and focused.

We can use informal communication instead of a meeting to coordinate. A conference call can make good use of everyone’s time without requiring a meeting. And an email with a request for comment can fill many of our information vacuums quite well. If we’re opting for a face-to-face meeting we should end up with decisions, timelines and assignments we cannot get without a face-to-face meeting.

On the other hand, a meeting to “talk about” stuff is way to show disdain, or even contempt, for the value of the attendees’ time. They can talk about stuff on the phone or via email. In fact, if the “stuff” is important to them, they have already been discussing it. If they haven’t, perhaps the “stuff” is important only to whoever called the meeting.

Meetings can be necessary, and when they’re productive, satisfying. If they aren’t productive they’re frustrating – and they encourage members to avoid them in the future. When attendance drops we try to entice attendance by bringing snacks and playing games and encouraging attendees to choose for themselves what to talk about — or we mandate attendance. And attendance goes down even more. Would you willingly trade three hours of playing with the kids for a donut and an hour of nagging about helping your boss achieve her goals?

If you’re going to call a meeting: 1. Be sure there’s a clear, specific purpose, 2. Invite only those who will be making the decision or plan and 3. Carefully consider other ways to accomplish the purpose. Investing the time of our members should be done as carefully as we’d invest their money.


*”How to Conduct Productive Meetings” (TI item 236B)

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