Saturday, May 16, 2009

Meetings gone bad

Below is a mostly fictional schedule that mimics a pattern I see in my office (names and places are fictional, just illustrating a pattern).

8:00am-9:15am Daily Status meeting (room B342) - In attendance: Susan, Bob, Bill, Steven, Mike. Review where we are in the project... Bill is going to fix bug 123 Steven is going to set up server, Mike needs to review the Spec doc and make recommendations, Susan needs to catch up on emails.

9:00am-10:00am Project Planning meeting (room B231) - In attendance: Susan, Bob, Bill, Steven, Mike (all late), and Jim. Plan the work for this week... Bill is going to fix bug 123 Steven is going to set up server, Mike needs to review the Spec doc and make recommendations, Susan needs to catch up on emails. Jim needs Mike to get with him and explain how to use the new Foobernator component. Mike agrees to do it in the afternoon.

10:00am-11:00am Requirements Review Meeting (room B243) - In attendance: Susan, Bob, Bill, Steven, Jim. Review the requirements documents for the upcoming project. Find a few spelling errors (huh?) Move some paragraphs around... uncover some issues that need to be figured out. Bob and Bill are going to get back with clients to figure out what we should do about the issues. Agree to meet tomorrow to re-review the doc.

11:00am-12:15 Issues Meeting (room C333) - In attendance: Susan, Bob, John and Jim. Review "Issues list" to determine what we should be working on for this release. Attendees realized they need Mike and Steven so they pull them into the meeting.

The anti pattern is what I'll call the Night of the living dead. You know this is happening if you see herds of people moving from one meeting room to the other. They meander from meeting to meeting eating at the brains of folks... slowing turning everyone into lethargic zombies incapable of anything useful.

If you have 4 meetings per day with the same 6 people, get a room! No, really, I mean it, book a conference room and move all six people to the same place. I realise we're all overweight and need the exercise, but walking around with the same horde of people all day is a huge time-waster.

In addition, if you have technical staff that you rely on to do things, you cannot invite them to 8 hours of meetings per day and expect them to get anything done. I have literally (not recently) attened continuous meetings where at 9:00am I was given a task, and asked ever hour or so if I had completed it. This was being asked by people who where continuously in meetings with me!

My personal solution to this problem I have implemented over the last year or so has been to start being VERY aggressive about meeting attendance and internally putting a value on my time. Too many people seem to use status meetings as a warm blanket to protect them from the harsh reality of "getting things done". They feel safe in spending 50 hours per week replying to email and attending meetings, and have wondrous excuses why things don't get done. Fact is, many folks could be a heck of a lot more productive if they would just do the work at hand instead of Talking about
doing the work at hand.

In addition, there are people who love to Hijacks meetings to further their own personal agenda. Typically this happens when the person organising the meeting hasn't clearly stated the agenda so everyone makes up their own. Very entertaining to watch, not too entertaining to participate in unless your goal in life is to be a member of the PFD.


john_doe said...

It's like we're working at the same place.

I started blatantly refusing meetings due to poor agendas, attendance and lack of productivity. If you don't have the decency to tell me what the meeting is about or a clear objective, I shan't be attending.

I've had a few heated debates with some of our team "leaders" who seem to miss the fact that the people who create/fix these magical systems actually need time to concentrate and do the work.

"Dearest Customer. Your bug won't be fixed in a timely manner. You've put too much faith in the people running your IT department."

Mainguy said...

Yesterday I spent 3 hours in meetings fretting and talking about "should we do this or not"...I'm falling off the wagon.