Mar 122011

I think there are two types of meetings: essential, and really essential.

I actually enjoy meetings, they get me away from my desk, and they provide an opportunity to get some input, for some decision making and to get dormant parts of my brain working again.

Essential meetings are those required to keep a project going, they might be daily or every few days. They can be something where people get together in a meeting room, or just pulling your chair up to a co-workers desk and going over something. These meetings get the most done, but are the least organised. However, one clear ingredient of these types of meetings is that they are usually internal meetings, and as such they tend to get spontaneously created, shifted around, forgotten, cancelled, changed or pushed into the background and as as Agent Smith says, it’s inevitable.

And if the focus is on getting the job done then meetings are like doing a check of the map to make sure you’re going the right way. If the highway doesn’t have any turn-offs then you don’t need to check the map so often. But if you’re in a squiggly city like Canberra, then you need to check the map every few streets (or have a good GPS.) But eventually you have to have one of these meetings to make sure all is well in the world. Thus, regardless how much disdain you give these kinds of meetings, they eventually become essential.

Really essential meetings are usually external meetings with the client. These will have a fixed day and time and rarely get shifted due to the amount of work it takes to actually organise it. These meetings can go for an hour, sometimes more and consist of quite a bit of waffle, kerfuffle and other ~fuffley items. Due to the number of stakeholders involved and their relative levels of power within an organisation, the ratio of decision making to participants tends to approach zero. (Or one, I never was good ratio maths.)

Well, I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration (the inability to get things done in client meetings, not my mathematical ability with ratios.) But part of the challenge is that in internal meetings there’s already a corporate language in use that facilitates faster communication. When meeting with the external client, the use of language has to be very carefully clarified in order to avoid ambiguities.

When ever I have a client meeting, I’ll take lots of notes and then after the event (and sometimes, it is an event) I go back to my deskicle and write everything up as best I can and send it to all the stakeholders. (That’s an odd expression, stakeholders, it sounds as though Buffy is going to turn up with her friends and kill Edward, et. al. One can only hope.) Then afterwards I can use the notes as a point of reference of what I’m doing. Internal meetings however are just a fluffy feel good get together to do a check of how things are going. Usually.

I don’t like to have internal meetings run like external ones with client. But that’s just me and the situation I’m in now. If I was working in a huge corporation and I had people from all different departments who didn’t know each other, then yeah, I’d be a bit more formal, but then I think that would reduce the productivity of the meeting. Formality however reduces ambiguity.
So, where does that leave us?

In a mixed up world between formality and ambiguity.