People who don’t work in Corporate America have this notion that all real business occurs in big meetings, held in big conference rooms, with big chairs, filled with people who have big egos. While Corporate America definitely has its share of these (especially the egos), most business occurs outside of this environment. Most business occurs in really small groups – often one-on-one – but usually no more than a group of a few people.
So, why do we have these big conference rooms with tables resembling those in U.N. buildings? Why do we have weekly status check meetings with 10, 15, 20+ people?
Why? Easy…to justify people like Cubicle George’s existence and to pad their egos. Really these meetings are no more than a way for people like George to strut like a rooster through the corporate version of the hen house.
So, for those of you who still think all the company’s problems are solved in these meetings, I thought I’d give you the blow by blow (unfortunately punches being thrown are way too rare) of a recent meeting I attended.
Twas a random Spring morning in cubeopolis when the familiar “ding” of my Outlook reminder sounded. This was my queue to hit the Outlook’s version of the snooze button for a follow up reminder at the start of the meeting. No sense being early…
Welp, I’ll wait.
A couple other people show up, but not the organizer. What was that college rule again? 15 minutes…no teacher…we’re outta here? Something like that. OK, the organizer (aka Jackass) has 5 more minutes to show (hey time is money and we’re wasting it) else I’m outta here.
Jackass struts in. Shit – I knew I should’ve bailed. Oh well.
Jackass: Hi everyone. Is anyone online yet?
Coworker (CW) 1: There’s a bridge? We didn’t dial in.
Jackass punches in some seemingly random 27 digit code into the phone.
“I’m sorry that passcode does not exist. Please re-enter your passcode.”
Jackass: What? Let me try again.
27 DTMF tones later…
“You will now be entered into the conference. You are the…4th…person to enter the conference.” “The other…3…people have been waiting for…10…minutes and are cursing your existence.”
Ok I addd that last part, but c’mon…you KNOW that’s true!
Jackass: Hi is anyone on yet?
All CW’s thinking to themselves: yes ass hat didn’t you hear Conference Betty say there were 3 others on?
Jackass: Ok so last time we talked about items 1-5 on this slide.
CW 2 (on the bridge): Are you sharing slides?
Jackass: Yes. Oh, that’s right, let me fire up the web share.
Jackass: Oh hi did someone join us?
CW 4: Yeah hi it’s 4
Jackass: Oh hi 4. How was your vacation?
CW 4: It was great thanks <so wish I was still on it instead of in this meeting>.
CW 2: Hello…What’s the URL?
Jackass: Oh. I’ll send it to everyone.
Jackass: Oh hi…did someone join us?
Jackass: Hi…did someone join?
CW 5: Yeah Hi Jackass…it’s 5.
Jackass: So, on items 1-5 we’re going to do the following…
CW 2: I still don’t have the URL. Can you just read it to us?
Jackass: I don’t understand. The email shows as “sent”. Can you refresh your mail?
CW 2: Yeah, still nothing.
CW 3 (also remote): Me either!
Jackass: OK, it’s http://our.company.bridge.com/27.digit.code/participant.code.xyz
CW 3: Did you say xyz or zyq?
Jackass: XYZ! Crap this stuff should be easier?
So as I was saying, with items 1-5…
Jackass: Hi someone joined?
CW 6: Hi it’s 6. Sorry I’m late (not really).
Jackass: Hi 6. We’re in National Park Room 2 aren’t you in the building?
CW 6: Umm yeah, but I need to take it from my desk (I’m not wasting my time in that room with all you fools).
<<Jackass continues with a complete rehash, redo, fully the same freaking thing he said last week on items 1-5.>>
Bong Bing – And, we lost the first bridge person.
Jackass: Hi did someone join?
CW 2: I’m pretty sure that someone left.
<<Jackass meanwhile goes over item 6 for about 5 minutes.>>
Jackass: So CW 5, will you be able to complete item 6 before the deadline?
CW 2: Musta been 5 that left.
Jackass: Well…I’ll follow up with 5 later and update you all next week.
All CW’s remaining thinking: Ugh must figure out how to get out of next week’s meeting.
3 CW’s in the room leave.
Bong Bing – Dunt dunt dunt….another one bites the dust…
Jackass: Well we’re running out of time here. Next week we’ll cover items 6-10.
Me thinking: yeah right, it’s been 3 weeks and we’ve only gotten to #5.
I. Don’t. Have. Hope.
Jackass: I’ll send out the notes from today and schedule next week’s session.
Me thinking: What freaking notes: Hi did someone join? Does anyone have any update worth more than the 1 dead and 4 half dead dry erase marker on the shelf?
Jackass: Thanks all. Have a great day.
And, that folks is how all too many meetings go in our world. Because of this I have put in place a couple of rules.
Rule 1 – No agenda? No CV in attendance.
If you don’t have an agenda I will not attend the meeting.
The only caveat is if the meeting was scheduled by my boss or my bosses boss. What can I say? I’ve got a big mortgage.
Rule 2 – Always, Always, Always bring the laptop or iPad to
take notes so I’m well informed on action items that may be assigned to me so I can be the most efficient worker possible flip through Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and random RSS feeds.
P.S. If George schedules the meeting, ignore Rules 1 and 2 and join remotely from your desk even if the meeting room is down the hall from your glorious cube. Or better yet, just skip it all together.