How to Tell When a Meeting is Pointless


Lame Meeting

Meetings. When used correctly, they lead to synchronized teams, informed stakeholders, and better requirements. They help to identify issues affecting an organization. They’re great for resource planning, sharing vision, and all kinds of useful stuff.

A clear, focused meeting energizes the participants. These meetings are a force for good. These meetings make the office smile.

Then there are those other meetings. The kind that quickly devolve into frittering, wasted time, and drained chi. The kind that leave you feeling dazed and sleepy, craving caffeine and something stronger. This kind that people head home after. We forget who and where we are. Circulation slows. Horripilations. Snoring. Death.

It’s hard to enjoy a migraine. So I’m wondering why more emphasis isn’t given to making meetings quick, efficient, and energizing? Why don’t more organizations demand the right kind of meeting?

If you are experiencing one or more of the following, chances are you’re in a crummy meeting. Sorry to hear that!

Causes of lame meetings:

1) The agenda is unclear.
If the purpose of a meeting is not known, the meeting cannot succeed. quod erat demonstrandum

2) No one person is in charge of the meeting.
Meetings cannot be led by committee – it’s best to have a dictator. If the dictator isn’t working out, appoint a new dictator so you can finish up and get out of that uncomfortable chair!

3) The person in charge of the meeting does not direct the meeting well.
The person in charge should be strong and autonomous. They need to be willing and able to interrupt, guide discussion, and summarize quickly. Udon, ramen, linguini or other types of wet noodles should not be encrusted, let alone entrusted.

4) One or more participants is in love with their own voice.
Seriously, you aren’t that interesting. If you aren’t moving things forward, silencio!!

5) When the meeting is over, go back to work.
You met for a reason. Now get back to work. You don’t need to fill up that 15 or 30 minutes. If you look closely at their eyes, you will see they want to return to their desks.

6) Skype, etc.
I love skype, but I have wasted many many minutes trying to interpret inscrutable, crackly scrum updates. use a landline when you can. And use your headphones. And stay out of the frickin wind! And most importantly, use mute when you aren’t speaking!!!

7) No one is prepared
My suggestion is to cancel immediately or start late if participants have not prepared. If you find that something is missing, shame the perp, abandon ship, and reschedule!

What did I miss?


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