I don’t know about you but one of the biggest blights on the working day for me is the meeting. There are pointless ones, badly chaired ones, long ones, dull ones, tricky ones, ones that run way over the finish time, ones where you get copious amounts of grief – possibly for just existing and ones where everyone else is being a complete idiot and cannot see how insightful all your contributions to the said meeting have been and if only they would accept your point of view the organisation would be in rude health (those are of course the most frequent ones in my experience).
A quick review of my work calendar….I love how Microsoft calls it a ‘calendar’ rather than the more gainfully-employed sounding ‘diary’. I think it is to sucker us in and normalise the idea that your every working hour is now shared with all and sundry and they can dip in and whack another meeting in any old time they please, preferably straight after the previous meeting thus denying you access to hot beverage, food or much needed facilities. Calendar sounds somehow more friendly, more family orientated – like an advent calendar or the calendar in the kitchen that tells you whether your are watching Lesta or the Mighty Saints on any particular Satday….
Back to it…. the work calendar informs me that during the average week I attend at least 4 meetings per day, many not dissimilar to the description in the opening line of this minor ramble. It reminded me of a training video that I was shown sometime ago when dinosaurs still ruled the earth and tweeting was what birds did.
I had just been elected Vice-President of a student union, which meant that myself and four other equally green but keen graduates got to spend a year kidding ourselves that we were running the students union while the ‘permanent staff’ as they were called tried to ensure that our decision making caused the organisation minimal damage and that we were busy being distracted with campaigning and demos and things like that (our demos were pretty good I seem to remember) where we couldn’t do any real harm. Called ‘Meetings Bloody Meetings’ it starred amongst others John Cleese as a ‘moderately competent but bumbling middle manager’ (accordingly to the blurb) who exhibits a series of classic ‘meeting faults’ and is taught the error of his ways via a nightmare dream sequence where he is put on trial for wasting colleagues’ time.
It gives some reasonable advice but I realised after the most recent Stand By Your Saints Committee meeting (minuted by my own fair paw) that there are a few crucial tips to a truly successful meeting that were missing from that video. To whit (two weeks on the trot, perhaps a case of twhit-twoo):
Only discuss things you care about e.g. Football-related items and the future of your local football club.
Only invite nice people e.g. People who like football, drinking, bad jokes and who are willing to invest time and creative minds in contributing to the future of your local football club.
Location, location, location. Never a meeting room…always a pub. Preferably one with Amstel on draft and fine ales for your co-chairmen.
A clear finish time
When the bar shuts or Mr TLF rings and says, “er shouldn’t you be home by now?”
John Cleese – eat yer heart out.