Love, hate and the economics of meetings

‘I wish I did not have to come here next week again’, I murmured as I went through the door. It was the biggest meeting room we had in our office building. Yet, it was filled to the last square inch with attendees, some active and the remaining, fence sitters.

It just dawned on me that this weekly meeting was perhaps like one of those affairs I wish I never had. It inflicted pain, often deep, every time I met her and I walked in through this door.

Meetings, a lot like our relationships, offer themselves in all shapes and sizes. A few are short and sweet while most go on as repeated, cyclic affairs until we give in to their motions. We wish we never had some and we crave for others. We cling on to a few meaningless ones, as we fear losing all that we have already invested in those. Some give us that cherished sense of being “all important” and we love them. Like relationships, we can never get rid of these endless series of getting together, huddling up and often feeling good about being productive.

Yet, there are other times where I am more critical. I look for the value produced in those countless hours of ranting and analyse their cost to the last penny. Being in the business setting of the corporate headquarters, I expect everything to be efficient, rational and result oriented. The truth is, our organizations are inefficient by nature and are far from being rational bodies.

Too many meetings often indicate that we are not organized efficiently. Our resources are in the hands of wrong decision makers and the jobs are sitting in irrelevant departments. We meet for days, months and sometimes years, trying to overcome such impediments instead of consolidating the resources and jobs. Some meetings are held with the sole purpose of sharing information, because we are yet to figure out a tool to share information efficiently and near real-time.

There are still other meetings which are in the pretext of “delegating” work and later tracking how the delegation has worked. In all probabilities, non-performers, in the pretext of these meetings are enjoying their free rides!

These meetings are there to make up for the inefficiencies inherent in an organization. They are like subsidies our governments keep pumping in to keep an inefficient system ticking, a socialist way of doing things. Perhaps we set wrong expectations with ourselves by craving for fair competition and wanting information and resources to flow seamlessly to where it produces the greatest value. After all, organizations, like us, are social entities functioning in the backdrop of human societies – inherently inefficient and irrational.

Inspired by the book “The Efficient Executive” by Peter H. Drucker

Q …. Is it possible in advance of an integration or organisation change, to tell if the integration or change will be possible, successful and what actions will be required ? If so How ?

Q > Is it possible in advance of an integration or organisation change, to tell if the integration or change will be possible, successful and what actions will be required ? If so How ?

A > I would be more concerned about the long-term value, rather than focusing on justifying the Integration Success Criteria. Success of an integrated unit is directly proportional to the merger of two cultures to create high-performance new team. “Team” is the operative word here. Leaders fail to realize that integration of people who represent completely different cultures due to different sets of beliefs and corporate stories/ DNA is not a short-term task.

Corporate Story creation is a very important first step i.e. how does the CEO see new company after N years; how would the CEO transform new company to desired state within N – 1st statement signifies Vision, and 2nd statement refers to the identification steps to achieve targets. Two things are very important here: 1) Defining N, which will represent the pace at which integration or transformation should take place 2) Continuously telling the corporate story to all the stakeholders – Remember, it is an integration of cultures, so continuous communication to every level of the organization will not leave any scope for doubts that could be detrimental (under communication vacuum, people generally discuss worst case scenarios).

Having said all of the above, it is important to define success criterion and measurement technique; remember, measurement needs to take place continuously during the integration process, and not just at the end of defined period.