Monday, June 1, 2015

Another worthless meeting: The Discussion

By now, you should realize that my least favorite type of meeting is "The Public Reading." That said, there are several other types of meetings that I don't particularly enjoy, and I don't think move the needle much with the business. Given the amount of time we all spend in meetings, any efforts to make them more effective should be applauded.

So, as you can see from the title, another meeting I find less than thrilling is "The Discussion."
Some meetings might feel a little like they are nothing more than a discussion, and you might begin to wonder if you have fallen into the this kind of a meeting, so let me give you a few tips on how this type of meeting typically goes:
  • The agenda is to discuss a topic. You'd think this is a dead giveaway, but it really has to devolve worse than that to qualify. Some meetings to discuss may actually have an objective.
  • At least once during the meeting (and usually three times for an hour-long meeting), one contributor will drive the conversation down such a rat hole that you cannot tell what the topic is from the discussion.
  • Notes are not taken or are irregular in their structure and message.
  • The participants favor inclusion and freedom to discuss any topic for as long as desired over productive outcome-based discussion.
  • At the end of the meeting, another meeting to discuss is likely still required. These are sometimes disguised as "further review" or "deep dives" or "breakouts" but really they are just flags that you did not accomplish your meeting's objective.
If you've attended these types of meetings, they feel a whole lot like work. But they are not accomplishing all that much.

If you think you have been sucked into this type of meeting, there are a few key things you can call out. Be warned: some people just like to talk and don't care if they are accomplishing much, and might take offense if you are asking them to stop rambling.
  • Ask what the meeting is trying to accomplish. Sometimes, people just don't know. Set a goal of what to accomplish and it will help drive towards it.
  • Ask who is facilitating (or if you are, facilitate!). Make sure it is clear who is in charge of saying "move to the next topic." 
  • Employ a "parking lot." Off topic conversations can be placed in the parking lot, allowing for determination later of whether or not that is a valid side discussion.
  • Take notes. Even if there is someone else whose job it is to take notes, you should as well. You may be able to augment the official meeting notes (if any go out). 
  • Don't feed the trolls. Identify who is just there to discuss and who is there to propel the business forward. Spend your energy on the latter.
What other meeting types should we avoid? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Photo credit Sponchia on Pixabay