Meetings Michel Pireu     | Business Day Friday, October 5, 2018
Key take-aways from an update on meetings in the Economist:

Most workers view the prospect of a meeting with the same enthusiasm as Prometheus awaited the daily arrival of the eagle, sent by the gods to peck at his liver … perhaps the best solution is to have fewer of them. Thanks to technology, messaging groups allow management and employees to keep in touch. Information can be imparted in succinct form and those who are not involved can ignore the messages and get on with their work.

Part of the problem lies in the paradox that, although we hate attending meetings, we loathe being excluded even more.

According to Bartleby’s Law, 80% of the time of 80% of the people in meetings is wasted. A corollary to that: After at least 80% of meetings, any decisions taken will be in line with the HIPPO, or “highest-paid person’s opinion”. In short, those who backed a different outcome will have wasted their breath. Perhaps because they are aware of the futility of their input, fewer than half the people in a large meeting bother to speak.

If the object is to learn what people think, lower-status employees should be encouraged to speak.

Maurice Schweitzer, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says meetings work best when preparation is done. “Sadly,” he adds, “it seldom gets done.”

The best way to avoid Parkinson’s law of triviality is to get the agenda right. Jay Bevington of Deloitte says there is a temptation to leave the most important—and therefore the most contentious—items until the end of the meeting. Instead they should be tackled at the start.

Furthermore, there is no point in holding a meeting unless everyone knows what has been decided afterwards. Bevington says many would be surprised how many attendees leave a meeting without being sure of what was agreed.
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