When we complain that meetings are boring, time-wasting, maddening, or frustrating, it might help to check first about the roles we play ourselves. There are dozens of tactics and ploys, which I've been collecting over the years. Here's the second installment of a little catalog of the more common ones. See "Games for Meetings: I," Point Lookout for February 12, 2003, or "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003, for more.
- See how good I am at manipulating PowerPoint in arcane, undocumented ways.
- Animations, builds, video, audio, and artwork might have legitimate uses, but sometimes we go way too far. When we abuse PowerPoint's abilities, we not only waste our own time, but we also undercut our own messages. If you find yourself doing this sort of thing, ask yourself why you thought it was a good idea. More at "Think Before You PowerPoint," Point Lookout for January 2, 2002.
- Let's make our networked laptops display the slides so we don't have to look up at the projection screen — or at each other.
- For those blessed with the necessary infrastructure, networking audience laptops to display the speaker's slides can be useful, especially for remote audiences. But when a projection screen suffices, use it. The group will stay more connected.
- You think I'm looking at your slides on my laptop, but I'm actually txting the prsn sttg nx 2 me. [*]
- One of the risks of the networked laptop presentation is that people might find alternative ways to pass the time. As the presenter, be aware of this risk. As a member of the audience, remember that you can be found out.
- Not Me
- I didn't have anything to do with that horrible disaster.
- The old pass-the-buck ploy. If this happens frequently, it could be a sign that you live in a blame-based environment, and that's an unhealthy place to be. Consider moving on. If you're in a position to effect cultural change, start tracking the incidence of this pattern. It's an indicator of the need for an intervention. See "The Blaming Organizational Coping Pattern" for more.
- Hot Potato
- I don't want to have anything to do with that. Here, you take it.
- When we use this ploy, we might gain temporary advantage, but eventually, we'll get caught holding some other potato. Address the issue directly. Try to find a way to share the unpleasant work or at least, the risk.
- Serial Status Report
- We each report that everything we're responsible for is on track.
- A very wasteful pattern. Instead, compile status from everyone in advance of the meeting, and post or distribute the reports to all concerned. Use meetings to discuss issues, rather than to announce status.
- See No Evil
- Let's all silently agree not to mention the painfully obvious problem(s).
- If the problems are threatening enough, any team will fall into this trap. One way to avoid it: designate someone as "Curmudgeon," with responsibility for asking the embarrassing questions. See "Appreciate Differences," Point Lookout for March 14, 2001.
Which of these do you do? Which can you stop doing? What can you do instead? Keep track of what you see in your meetings, and talk about their costs. More coming in future issues — see "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003. Send me descriptions of your more delightful discoveries. Top Next Issue
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Figuring Out What to Do First
- Whether we belong to a small project team or to an executive team, we have limited resources and seemingly
unlimited problems to deal with. How do we decide which problems are important? How do we decide where
to focus our attention first?
- In the Groove
- Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?"
Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.
- The Solving Lamp Is Lit
- We waste a lot of time finding solutions before we understand the problem. And sometimes, we start solving
before everyone is even aware of the problem. Here's how to prevent premature solution.
- Hill Climbing and Its Limitations
- Finding a better solution by making small adjustments to your current solution is usually a good idea.
The key word is "usually."
- Unnecessary Boring Work: I
- Work can be boring. Some of us must endure the occasional boring task, but for many, everything about
work is boring. It doesn't have to be this way.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
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