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

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Rewards and risks – and how they drive my behavior at work

It was midnight and I had a long day at work. The pangs of sleep were coming down heavy on me as I tried to finalize my next annual targets for my reporting authorities.
What was my challenge ? I created two versions of goals.
1. The first one was a set of conservative targets. I was fairly confident of meeting and exceeding them. But I knew that this was not the true me, inherently a risk taker and a lover of challenges  where I am equally poised for success and failure.
2. The second draft represented me more closely as a professional. It was big, hairy and audacious!
As I constantly pondered on which was the right set of goals, my mind wavered. I started thinking about the performance discussion for the last financial year. If any of my easy targets had ten percent of my variable pay tied to it, I received the entire amount for meeting or exceeding it. I lost points on those I missed, because I committed and missed. The only catch – the ones I missed were really difficult ones and we were anonymous about that during the performance review.
It didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter if we agree that the targets were not easy, we know we do not get rewarded for trying.We get paid for delivering, right ?
Wrong.
I believe we should get rewarded for even trying and partially achieving really difficult targets, let alone being penalized for missing the last five or ten percent. Because if I don’t, I am operating in my comfort zone; and in all probabilities, not doing the best I can for the business.
In a flash, I knew what my next set of goals are. And I think you know too, dear reader.
Mr. HR, your benefits policy will let me sleep like a baby, not only this night but every night for the rest of the year! I knew I will meet or exceed my targets.