Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Meetings...*&!!"£^^£$*!!*! geeeeee

Molly sits in her office, chin supported by her cupped hand, staring out of the window as she uses her inner vision to stare directly into her fanciful daydream......

A meeting was called and the agenda was sent out prior to the meeting and all meeting attendees-to-be checked to see if they needed to put in any preparation or thought before attending and if they did, they did so. Everyone arrived on time. The person who called the meeting had worked out clear and realistic objectives for the hour and a half everyone was to spend together. Everyone was clear about their role within and beyond the meeting. The chair kept everyone on task - although this was easy because the planning for the session was so unambiguous, there were no egos competitively and deliberately being contrary for the sake of it, nobody moaning as a work avoidance tool and no one felt the need to waffle on extensively down a fruitless tangent. At the end of the meeting all the objectives were met and those with responsibilities beyond the meeting knew exactly what they needed to do and when they needed to have done it by.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Have I laughed enough to indicate how far-fetched that daydream was? No. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Oh the pain ha ha ha ha ha

Every week the working world must play host to thousands of meetings. It's definitely a good method for keeping people off the streets as it certainly fills up a lot of time. I do suspect that the 'culture' of meetings varies from place to place and from organisation to organisation. I also suspect the private sector is better than the public sector at pinning down what needs to be pinned down - after all time is more obviously money in Businessland.

Looking at the angle from which I look (Potteryfluffbutstraightthinkingsville) most people don't do meetings well. A productive and effective meeting needs some planning - unless the meeting is really straightforward - there's no avoiding it. Few people seem to get that. (I say this despite being a person that's often happy to wing it.) An effective meeting also needs a strong chair - one with a clear understanding of the objectives and a firm hand for swiping at irrelevancies.

Another thing....meetings need conceptualising! Why don't these people know this? There are many different 'types of meeting' but I have rarely been informed beforehand what my role in the meeting is. In fact, when I have asked, I have been seen as somewhat difficult. (Again).
For example:
*is the meeting just for just for information sharing?
*is the meeting for problem solving for a distinct task that is repeated e.g. reviewing different resources?
*is the meeting about steering a piece of ongoing work that is done beyond the meeting?
*is the meeting about bringing experts together to complete or steer a finite piece of work (and eventually, therefore, have no more need to meet)
*are the people at the meeting representative of their organisation and can therefore make decisions on their organisation's behalf or just another 'mind' to help out?
*are there expectations of work beyond the meeting or is all that is required is expertise within the meeting?

The answers to these questions are meant to be set out in the terms of reference, but despite reading many, I have yet to find evidence of such clarity. I guess if meetings were the utmost in efficiency, we'd have too much spare time on our hands - and with that, I for one, would be out mugging - especially if I had come straight from the frustration of a meeting.

I feel I might have just have got something off my chest. Thank to those of you still here.

Molly continues staring out of the window. She is in charge of the world (perhaps just the northern hemisphere). All is well.


  1. Now I know you're *really* out with the fairies. Meetings like that have never existed, ever.

  2. Working as an artist, rather than an arts administrator, the thing that bugs me most about meetings is that the people across the table are being paid to be there whereas as those on my side are being deprived of an opportunity to engage in any remunerative activity.

  3. “A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.”
    James T. Kirk
    Hey, I didn't say it.
    I'm just quoting someone else.
    Trying to add my 2 cents.
    don't shoot the messenger.

  4. Jonathan - same with my husband. He husband wastes days travelling to and attending meetings for which he doesn't get paid when he could be working at home earning money and doing the bloody work they want him to go and talk bollocks about. Then again, it does force him to 1. shave, 2. get out of his dressing gown and 3. Remember there is a world out there!

  5. The only time I seem to have meetings that drag on and go nowhere are the ones where I'm dealing with the public sector, the ones with private companies tend to involve getting it over with quickly and on a good day having some cake. I've also noticed that a lot of meetings tend to be more about members of organisations validating their purpose rather than actually achieving anything for users, probably a bit unfair, but that's how it feels sometimes.

    It's sadly often the same with the designwork. Commercial sector, "yes, that's lovely, we bow to your knowledge, can I have a bill now please?" well sort of, public sector, "Can we see 5 more interations, we're not sure about the colour it's a bit negative, that shape looks vaguely like a penis... we'll show it everyone we can find and check it's okay, it will cost more - why?" or and this one is genuine word for word "We're not sure about the butterfly, it's a bit threatening, can you maybe found a non threatening seabird?"... I laughed out loud.

    I should point out I've had some great meetings too, usually with user involvement groups in the Mental Health Sector - brilliant work, because of the lead officers being so good at what they do to motivate the users to help me.

    I also have to ask is this anything to do with JF's status yesterday?

  6. I completely agree with you! Another key question is whos bringing the biscuits and what type are they?

  7. Hi Molly P
    After all that's said and done, there's more said than done.
    Hugely entertaining post.

  8. Codgi,
    I know I know...but a gal can dream! It was written after one too many ridiculous meeting...where, to be honest, being away with the fairies was my salvation!

    Jonathan...I bet they forget that detail. Perhaps you should enter the meeting with a sign attached to your chest, ‘I am not being paid for this, so a) make it worthwhile, b) don’t make it any longer than it needs to be and c) be appreciative of my time.’

    Clipster.....messenger welcomed, asked to join us, given tea and cake.

    Claire, for Jim then, don’t call them fruitless meetings, call them practice in personal hygiene and presentation practice.

    Mr T – as I suspected, private sector doesn’t fill up airspace with quite so many empty and meaningless words. The public sector is also regularly guilty of forgetting that the private sectors works with a different relationships to....well time, money, getting things done, efficiency, the point of their work (to make money) seems to assume that everyone works in the same way as them....i.e. result have little significance!!! I am being hard...on the PS!

    I might not sleep for the image of a threatening butterfly that you have conjured in my mind. Did it have laser beams coming from its eyes, wings as sharp as razors, pounding back and forth, motored by throbbing muscles and huge fangs that drew blood or was it a common blue? What were you thinking?

    Hello SS
    Biscuits and cake are very important as is the 25 minute conversation about which biscuits are your favourite and where you bought your new shoes and what you’re having for tea, before you can even LOOK at the agenda.

    Ken D – I like that saying.
    Much like – keep ‘em talking and they won’t be out mugging. (slightly rearranged catchphrase)

  9. There's a good book to write, similar to 'speed dating', 'speed meeting'. I'll bet it has been done?

  10. It was a normal butterfly, the staff at this particular org did worry me sometimes, it took 10 months to not design their website, we lost them as a client, it was a relief.

    I'm not keen on cabbage white's though, murdered hundreds of their children last year, but that's an allotment tale.
    Please bear in mind, Dragon's Den and alan sugar type wankers aside, the private sector isn't just about money, I do have to earn a living, but I also require some form of satisfaction from what I do, even if it's simply managing to hit a deadline, or moaning spectacularly about how crap clients can be, or occasionally the real highpoint is just producing something that is genuinely really really lovely. My business wife did a brochure today, that quite obviously came from his very core, it flowed out so easily and looked really amazing, the ease was the clue. It did sadly mainly contain marketing bollocks.

    Tuesday night I got a bit tipsy with some literary types at a get together where I didn't understand much of it (poetry - I like the rhythm but don't get the rhyme), just to show support to my oldest (and favourite) client who has very much become a mate over 20 years. Last night I went and did a workshop with some youngsters at a local media charity, it was quite entertaining and pro bono. I liked that, it's a form of payback, putting your skills back into something and passing them on, it's too easy to give a cancer/animal/kids charity a hundred quid of tax evasion at Christmas. I haven't done any youth work since I did stuff for NYCS in 1984 and NAC in 1986, it genuinely frightened me before the first session, One of the "Yoot" thanked me at the end of yesterdays. Worth every second of my time - honestly, I felt good, they liked what I did, they've got a logo they like that I only really helped with - tidied up their ideas and helped the process along by saying "don't be daft", "that's brilliant" and "um no like Wu Tang clans logo but in pink is not great" in the right places; fun, more please.

  11. Eric - if I wrote speed meeting, incidents of mugging would rise significantly. My social conscience won't allow it.

    yes Nick - I could not imagine you doing something you a) hated or b) nevver took no pride in. In fact....if I were in business - those two would be crucial. I would be in danger if forgetting to make money I suspect. So you have exciting and worthwhile business adventures with clients. Does that make you sound like a prostitute?

    I love your term 'business wife.' Does he?

  12. He calls me it too.

    A lot of "business people" including us, don't see ourselves as business people at all, we're just graphic designers, I don't like the concept of "business" very much anyway, it's too corporate sounding and therefore a con, I go to work, do work, earn money and come home again, spending it as I go usually, we're just 3 freelancers really, but together in a room, pooling skills rather than on our own.

  13. Your outlook often seems pretty spot on to me Mr T.


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