From smack-bang in the middle of the bell curve

Anatomy of a meeting

In blah, email, work on April 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

“Why don’t you setup some time to brainstorm this”. The most productivity-destroying words uttered within office spaces. BCP-DR Plans (Business Continuity – Disaster Recovery) that focus on earthquakes, tsunamis and peaceful party protests have nothing on the biggest threat to corporations; The meeting.

Naxals and other so-called freedom-fighters rely on ripping up railway tracks to disrupt normally productive life. In the white-collar world, all it takes is a Microsoft Outlook invite.

You can either be the unwitting inviter or the invitee. If you’re the inviter (or ‘Meeting Organizer’), you have the enviable task of finding simultaneously blank space across all calendars in question. A task that google has developed algorithms to do in their calendar application! (so much for jokes about it being rocket science to set up meetings) The first attempt at a suggested date/time is knocked back with disdain with reasons like “Will be on a flight” or “Will be 3am in the timezone I’ll be in”. Few iterations later they’ll be whittled down to one troublemaker who says “I’ll be in between flights and can do 25 mins provided the improbable happens and flights are delayed”. A date/time is setup.

Come the appointed time and all shuffle into a suitably darkened conference room with the first optimistic slide projected on screen. The participants settle in as the organizer runs through the introductory/background material. Every now and then a low buzz is heard, followed by the owner reaching for his bberry to read critical emails about “scheduled downtime of the company’s email server in Bratislava” or enlargement of certain organs. Every now and then one of the bberry owners picks up their buzzing phone to dive out while mumbling their apologies and whispering into the device that they would be interested to know more about the latest unobtainium credit card that Standard Chartered had to offer.

Meanwhile the meeting meanders. Until coming to rest and asking, “any suggestions?”. Pause. Longer pause. Someone mumbles about wanting to deep-dive into the background material to which the organizer mentions that it’s the same document that was sent to all attendees 3 weeks ago. The smarter ones have already been overtly (not covertly) glancing at their watch as they cite other meetings beginning milliseconds after this one ends. There are closing comments directed at the organizer about “great work”, “we should build on this”. “Why don’t you schedule time next week” as the participants dissipate.

Total man hours spent: 16 hours. (Time spent organizing: 4 hours. Man hours attending: 12 hours)
No. of inputs: Eh?
Dilbert strip forward email about meetings received by the group in the middle of the meeting leading to chuckles: priceless.

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  1. sometimes during the ppt-ation u can add stuff like u got the ideas at a restaurant and well a tangent is created and thats just well priceless again cause another meeting is setup to dine at a new restaurant and discuss the ppt.

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