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Editorial It's funny.  Laugh.

The Useless Meeting Wack Jobs 437

$$$$$exyGal writes "Have you ever attended a useless meeting? Are you the wack job who always ask the same (or random) question during an all hands with the hope that simply by asking, you're going to change something? Rands in Repose points out the difference between an informational meeting and a conflict resolution meeting."
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The Useless Meeting Wack Jobs

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  • My question (Score:5, Funny)

    by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:46AM (#8224863)
    I usually ask "Why are we having this meeting? No. Really". It never gets answered satisfactorily. Am I asking anything wrong??

    • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:53AM (#8224939) Homepage Journal
      Just keep asking, and a promotion is sure to follow. Then you can be the one at the head of the table, asking the same question...
    • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#8224959) Homepage Journal

      I usually ask "Why are we having this meeting? No. Really". It never gets answered satisfactorily. Am I asking anything wrong??

      Not at all.

      Your question hardly takes any time and is the only source of entertainment at the meeting.

    • Re:My question (Score:5, Informative)

      by imadork ( 226897 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#8224961) Homepage
      I usually ask "Why are we having this meeting? No. Really". It never gets answered satisfactorily. Am I asking anything wrong??

      There's nothing wrong with that, unless you want to get promoted into management. Then I think your performance will be evaluated on the number of useless meetings you go to (and run).

      I get invited to a ton of meetings every week, but always ask the person calling it if I really need to go. More than half the time, I was only invited because I was on the project distribution list!

    • Re:My question (Score:3, Insightful)

      I used to contract to a Fortune 500 company (though I didn't make anywhere near the money you'd expect from that), and we had these great weekly team meetings where our manager basically asked "Are you on target?" and we all just said "Yup, on target" (though we each had to phrase it differently to suit our individual personalities).

      I never, ever, asked why... since it was easier to ask: 'ah, why not?'

    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:09AM (#8225093) Journal
      Actually, sometimes meetings serve a purpose. Or are planned that way. Sure, you could argue that we could have cleared the same question by email instead of having a two-hour meeting, but still. We could have just stuck to the point, explained the architecture to the client, or viceversa, answered a few questions, and been done with it.

      But no. What I hate is the wiseguy that just has to ask _something_, _anything_, just to show participation. Among my "favourites" are(favourite poster children for euthanasia, that is):

      - people who ask something that's been said before. Repeatedly. Bonus points if it's something obvious.

      (Yes, for the 5'th time, we _are_ saving the data in an Oracle database.)

      - people who, obviously, are stuck in a "misunderstand it" mental mode.

      (E.g., no, just because there are two columns in the table, it doesn't mean you can only store two attributes. There's a reason why those two columns are called "key" and "value". It's for storing as many key/value pairs as you need. No, seriously. You can stop asking "what if we later need more than two attributes?")

      - people who take some irrelevant detail -- often a tangent or metaphor used -- and, by Jove, they have to get that detail cleared out in detail.

      (E.g., if we're discussing the workflow engine, you can jolly well stop picking on the exact font used in the dummy screenshots. Yes, you'll get any font you want, but you'll get it from the GUI team. Can we move ahead already?)

      - the more extreme case of the above: people who ask something completely unrelated and completely irrelevant.

      (Believe it or not, the "anyone else likes wood?" from a Dilbert strip actually happens in some real meetings. Just replace "wood" by some other completely irrelevant topic.)

      - the client PHB who just is affraid to reach a conclusion, and instead just _has_ to show that he/she/it manages. So each time he/she/it will want something else wantonly changed.

      (E.g., dude, we already gave you a template editor for those reports. Can we please, please, please not go yet again into whether to use landscape or portrait? Just use the editor and print them diagonally, for all I care.)
      • by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:32AM (#8225279) Homepage Journal
        I guess you couldn't possibly work with someone like me.

        I've got Asperger's (and a little bit of a chip on my shoulder), which is a form of mild autism that inclines me to do everything on your list except manage. ;)

        You might suggest to your coworker that he get tested for Aspergers, and get perscriptions to help. I know mine help me a great deal. Of course, you're going to get an icy glare.

        From personal experience, I'd guess that in person he goes O/T with every third sentence, even if you change topics with him every second sentence. He probably doesn't have much empathy skill (Mine aren't natural...I had to learn them from a therapist. She was overjoyed when I pointed out she looked preoccupied.).

        If he does have empathy skill, or if he is attempting to improve himself, I can pretty much gaurantee he feels like shit every time he makes a mistake like the ones you mention. (It's generally a, "DAMNIT! I can't seem to do anything right!" internal reaction.) Give him a break. Offer him help. He needs it, even if he doesn't want to admit it. His self-esteem is artificially inflated, at best, and he feels it.

        Hell, give him my email address. I'll talk with him.
      • by lobsterGun ( 415085 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:39AM (#8225346)

        (Yes, for the 5'th time, we _are_ saving the data in an Oracle database.)


        That might sound like a dumb question, but I have worked ata place where they actually weren't saving the data. Oh, it LOOKED like it was being saved, but every couple of weeks disk space would get tight and one of the programmer/admins would purge the data he didn't think we needed. This went on for almost a year before anyone noticed what was going on. When confronted with his actions his response was, "Well I put in a request for more disk space, but never heard back about it."

        And you know what happened to the guy??? NOTHING. He still works there. He's probably been promoted by now.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 09, 2004 @01:56PM (#8228038)
          Har. Har. Responsibility and authority. The "guy" had the first, but not the second. He was responsible for keeping some HD space open so that whatever app could run. He did not have authority to fix the problem he needed to fix to do his job.

          It happens to me all the time. A problem happens. I have a fix. I can't do it because it is not my call. Well, if it is not my call, why the **** am I responsible for fixing it?

          Something like this happening is most often, IMHO, a sign of bad management. You've got incompetent manager here somewhere. Because obviously this guy's job was not setup correctly. Fix the manager and you will "magically" fix the problem. Strange, huh?

          Except that in most cases, like in mine, the management refuses to be "fixed". They'd rather keep doing the stupid thing because they refuse to take professional advice from a professional they hired to dispense the advice. In the field that he is professional in. No amount of logic, written proposals, budget analysis, and common sense will budge them. ****** idiots. But then again, the business' clients are even bigger idiots so even if the stated purpose of the business has nothing to do with what they are (not) providing, money keeps rolling in. So yeah, who cares if thingamajig that is supposedly crucial to our job breaks. Who cares if the expert you hired to take care of the thing told you months ago, in writing, repeatedly, that thingamajig needs to be reset/fixed/replaced.

          Blah. I am just somewhat annoyed. I was dumb enough to sign a yearly contract with my current employer. But in a few months, I am goooone. To a place that actually (gasp!) wants to know my professional opinion on things, and is giving the authority to fix things. All they want is results, and they trust me to give the results to them... :)
        • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) * on Monday February 09, 2004 @04:51PM (#8230645)
          This went on for almost a year before anyone noticed what was going on. When confronted with his actions his response was, "Well I put in a request for more disk space, but never heard back about it."

          He did the right thing. Presumably, his job was to keep the system up and running, no matter what. He asked for the resources necessary to do his job, his manager didn't respond, so he did his best.

          It's like blaming a DBA with no budget for tapes for not taking backups of the database. We're good, but we can't spontaneously create matter from nothing...
          • The problem with the situiation was more that he didn't tell anyone that he had been deleting their data and he didn't really follow up with the purchase request for the drive space. Had he done either of these things the situiation could have been resolved without nearly as much heartache.

      • by jtheory ( 626492 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:08AM (#8226193) Homepage Journal
        Wonderful parent post, though I'm going to argue for a different alternative to the big hopeless meeting.

        Sure, you could argue that we could have cleared the same question by email instead of having a two-hour meeting, but still.

        It depends on who you're working with, obviously, but I've found that often a meeting is a MUCH faster way to resolve something than email. An remotely complicated issue can be better figured out face to face.

        People often don't realize their faulty assumptions, and will write out a whole email based on that one flawed idea -- and once they've spent that much time working out a solution, it's damned hard to rewind them all the way back to the beginning, ESPECIALLY in an email where you have to walk on eggshells to avoid insulting people (and you're going *nowhere* after that happens).

        My usual answer is the "unofficial" meeting, where no invitations are sent and max 3 people are involved. Then as soon as the invalid assumptions get trotted out, I can offer up the confused-but-trusting look and tactfully sort that out before we go on. And I can MOVE ON as soon as I see that we're all on the same page again, which is also impossible via email.

        I'm with you all about larger meetings... most meetings with more than 4-5 people are doomed unless the format is really locked down and there's someone running the thing who's really on-track and not afraid to shut down the jokers, the random-question-generators, the class-participators, the eternally-befogged, the story-tellers, the tangent-surfers, the argument-incitors, the pickers-of-nits, and all the other highly-valued team members that can't be left out because they're, well, on the team. Unfortunately, that's a rare occurance indeed.
        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:12PM (#8226808) Journal
          Well, it depends on what's discussed, obviously.

          Some meetings really need to stay meetings. You're right there. And keeping it small and on track would be very nice too.

          But, I don't know, IMHO there's also a lot of stuff could just as well be solved by email.

          E.g., "unidirectional" meetings. I've been in meetings where only the boss talked for 2 hours straight. No suggestions were even expected, or even within our expertise. Same as watching the news on TV: you're not actually expected to voice your feedback.

          While I definitely appreciate the feedback from above, I see no real reason why it needs to be a meeting instead of an email. Attach the powerpoint presentation to it, if you really must have one, and there you go. It's still the same information, it's easier to follow, and takes far less time for everyone.
  • obvious answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dan2550 ( 663103 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:48AM (#8224885) Homepage
    i think everyone hates meetings, but are too busy (attempting to)entainertain themselves to close their mouth and end the meeting. sorry to sound bitter. i am
  • Bingo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Channard ( 693317 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:49AM (#8224891) Journal
    Full House! Man, I love Buzzword Bingo... and that article pretty much filled my card up.
  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021.bc90021@net> on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:49AM (#8224897) Homepage
    ...for instance, I've worked at companies that have them, and companies that don't. At the ones that don't, rumours and gossip often take the place of what little real information you would get at a meeting, and that can do a lot to foment discontent among the workers.

    At the very least, at companies that have meetings, you have the opportunity to see people you might not otherwise see, maybe get some halfway useful information, and get some free donuts. ;)
    • by b0r0din ( 304712 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:58AM (#8224991)
      Obligatory "Mmmmmmm....donuts" reference.

      I would disagree with several things about this article, though I agree about the wack job; he's always there. I had one at the last place I worked, he loved to talk and talk and ask extremely dumb and often went into a long story. Everyone in the room pretty much looked at each other like, "Jesus, won't he stop talking?" but of course that was useless...

      I work in support, and I can say that meetings are good for keeping everyone up-to-date with policies, procedures, informing them of important deadlines, and encouraging everyone to work as a team to meet common goals and discuss areas for improvement. They aren't always a waste of everyone's time. There are obvious exceptions, of course, but companies are like ships; you have to constantly maintain them and avoid mutinies.

      However, I'll also say that generally speaking, managers very seldom take others' input on anything, and when you make a suggestion, they often address it with a 'yes we're working on that' like you just tried to take their job from them by recommending something. If you're a manager, please try not being such an asshole. We're not trying to hurt your egos. We just want to help. This are why most people hate management.
      • by AppyPappy ( 64817 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:19AM (#8225156)
        The worst is The Devils Advocate. He will argue one side and if he doesn't get the desired result, he will begin to argue the opposite side. These people are worthless and should be strangled as quickly as humanly possible.

        When I worked at AT&T, we were given beepers. When we were called into a meeting (AT&T doesn't have small short meetings...they are always marathons), we would request someone page us in 10 minutes. If the meeting was worthwhile, we stayed. If it wasn't, we bolted. That was fine until everyone else started doing it and it looked like a bomb threat had been called in.
        • by general_re ( 8883 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:37AM (#8225327) Homepage
          The worst is The Devils Advocate.

          You've obviously never worked for The Storyteller. The Storyteller will call a meeting, ostensibly as a means of assessing progress on the project du jour, and then turn it into a one man show about what he did on his vacation to Bimini, how his brother-in-law is particularly worthless, why he decided to go with forest green instead of black on his new car, the great/horrible movie he saw over the weekend, and so forth. Then, about 57 minutes into his one hour meeting, he'll glance at his watch and realize that time's almost up, at which point, he'll say something like "So, is everybody on track for this week?", which is everyone else's cue to lie about how well things are going. After all, The Storyteller didn't call this meeting to hear about your problems - he called it to tell you about some aspect of his personal life, and thereby tell you about his problems...

        • by Anonymous Coward
          When I worked at AT&T, we were given beepers. When we were called into a meeting (AT&T doesn't have small short meetings...they are always marathons), we would request someone page us in 10 minutes. If the meeting was worthwhile, we stayed. If it wasn't, we bolted.
          I've had dates like that.
        • He will argue one side and if he doesn't get the desired result, he will begin to argue the opposite side.

          That's not a Devil's Advocate, just someone in dire need of attention. A Devil's Advocate is someone capable of anticipating what's not good about a plan, or what an opposing party might use as arguments in a discussion. Not that being a good Devil's Advocate is any better in terms of long term career opportunities than just being an attention-addict...
      • by diablobynight ( 646304 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:30AM (#8225262) Journal
        The reason why we don't take your suggestions is because most people make them in an assaulting or inappropriate manner. Hey, I've got this problem, this is what we should do. Write it in an email, send it on, I'll read it when I have time and there in choose an appropriate course of action, possibly to discuss it in the next meeting. The problem is most people feel they have a right to their job, that it was owed to them, when in actuallity, their job is a priviledge.

        Also, a fair amount of suggestions are horribly short sighted, or uninformed. Like, when IT suggest, well why don't we simply build systems in house for this job. Well because i have a contract with Dell saying I won't do that, and in return they cut the company a great deal on the other 300 pcs we have to buy and replace every couple of years, not to mention the parts and service waranties that automatically are updated to four hour on site, by having this contract.

        We managers, in a finely tuned company, are supposed to have a better perspective of the whole than those under us, and I am not talking about operations managers, there just glorified paper pushers, essentially second lieutenants passing on orders from above and keeping track of payroll.

        The employees have the view of a man in the field, as far as his eye can carry to the next hill.
        front line managers, the lieutenants, at least get to stand on a hill, and see several of the hills in the battle, giving them the perpective of which of these hills to take.
        middle management, Is far back, taking in all of the views of the liuetenants, and seeing the whole field, deciding which patches of the field to move the lietenants into.
        Generals, upper management, are supposed to see the battle, like looking down from an aerial view, to see the whole countryside, and use their will and vision, to push the whole war in one direction or another.

        This is how a company "should" function. Upper management has vision and direction with respect to the company in comparison to the outside world, middle management only sees enough of the outside world to understand the orders from above and how to carry them out, how to push that vision forward. Front line managers(operational), can't see the outside world, and only know the company, and of that they can see very little. The employees, they have their gun, their pack, and their told to charge up a hill, they see an easier hill to take to their left, and see many benefits to taking that hill in opposition of their orders and feel that their managers aren't making an appropriate decision, but that's only because they didn't know that the whole division just flanked left and their making it possible for the army to move forward as a whole.

        sorry about all the millitary reference, but, I have a close connection to that kind of scenario.

        • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:12AM (#8225654) Homepage
          Also, a fair amount of suggestions are horribly short sighted, or uninformed. Like, when IT suggest, well why don't we simply build systems in house for this job. Well because i have a contract with Dell saying I won't do that, and in return they cut the company a great deal on the other 300 pcs we have to buy and replace every couple of years, not to mention the parts and service waranties that automatically are updated to four hour on site, by having this contract.

          Well, if you actually tell your employees that, rather than throwing them some BS bone to go chew on, then you're already a few steps above most of the other managers out there.

          Employees that can trust their bosses and feel like their bosses trust them have much higher morale (and productivity) than those who feel unappreciated or distrusted. If you just swat away your employees' suggestions with a careless remark or a counterpoint that everyone knows is BS, then you've become the manager that we all hate.
        • by Vladimus ( 583117 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:21AM (#8225737) Journal
          Also, a fair amount of suggestions are horribly short sighted, or uninformed.

          That's fine, but let employees know *why* the suggestion is shortsighted or uninformed. Don't just nod politely and say, "Uh-huh", then leave a subordinate wondering where their suggestion went.

          Let us know. We're big boys. We can take it.

          • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:13AM (#8226239)
            You missed the point. PHB's don't want to share the details with their people because soon, very soon, they will be making better, more informed decisions than the PHB. So, it's safer for their job to simply nod, feel good that they know more than you, and then completely ignore you.

            Most PHB's may not know business or technology, however, they almost always know people. Which is usually how they got the job in the first place. By keeping their underlings ignorant, they can look better in the eyes of upper management. This works exctly as it did 200+ years ago. The kings prefer to have ignorant masses as they are much easier to manipulate and control.
        • by BryanQuinn ( 581864 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:49AM (#8226016)
          I don't have a close connection to the military, but I find your analogy very accurate. Business is competetive and many of the skills honed in the art of war are applicable to business. Some of the best managers I've met were ex-military and could translate their skills to business.

          It takes many things to have a successful business. There must be a clear strategy set by the top leadership. The strategy must be executed well by line management and middle management all the way down to individual functions and employees. A culture that allows for well-motivated and well-trained workers is essential for good execution. The organization as a whole must be disciplined to maintain this execution and focus. A company that is focused and disciplined applies that culture to its meetings and will meet for good reasons and run the meetings effeciciently.

          If you think about Vietnam, one of the reasons that became such a disaster was that the military was dysfunctional in several ways: there wasn't a clear objective and strategy. Moreover, the military culture was stressed as many relatively unskilled draftees flooded into the system. With destabilizing pressure from the top and bottom combined with an entrenched defensive force, the US military was in a losing position. The objective wasn't clear, it wasn't even obvious they were losing for some time because it was too hard to measure.

          If you find that meetings in your organization are a waste of time, there is something wrong: Either you are attending meetings you shouldn't be attending and you need to fix that, or your organization isn't focused enough to allow people to decide what meetings are relevant. It can be difficult to solve the latter problem as an individual change agent, unless you want to take a leadership position as others have said. The best path is to raise the issue with management, starting with your manager, but volunteer a solution instead of griping. Setting some meeting ground rules such as: clear objective, itemized agenda with time estimates, and defining a facilitator and note-keeper are key best practices. If you don't do these things, your meeting is at best a hallway conversation without clear action items. A meeting that has no action items is a waste of time.

          Experienced managers will understand the issue and work to fix it. It does drive straight to the bottom line- more effective and efficient meetings means better use of time and that will equal better execution of the business model. If no one seems to understand the problem, you are in an immature organization and at some point you will have to deal with it.

          The same analogy holds for a sports team. As a team you still need a good game plan, everyone needs to execute well, you need a culture, you have to communicate, and you absolutely must not waste time. This is all necessary if you want to be at your best and be able to win. If you don't want to be at your best and win, then why bother? Being unfocused and losing isn't any fun. So if your company doesn't understand this, you should look for a new company.
        • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:25AM (#8226333) Journal
          In an ideal company, things would run that way. However, "real" and "ideal" are very often opposite directions on the compass.

          In a "real" company, most often things are not like in your "but Dell cut us a deal on 300 PCs, translating into exactly X hundred dollars saved."

          They're more like some manager declared a dysfunctional product as a corporate standard, because they got a 10,000$ discount. But that decision has cost the company about 2 extra man-years of expensive contractor programmer fees, just to work around the many bugs in that product. We're talking _hundreds_ _of_ _thousands_ of dollars lost, because of that 10,000$ discount.

          Seen that happen twice. Literally.

          Why did it happen? Because there that foot soldier knew the product and its limitations better than the manager. If the self-appointed "general" actually listened to the soldiers saying "this weapon can _not_ do that", things would have been far better.

          You want analogies with the army? OK, I'll give you just two random examples:

          1. The american civil war was a blood bath. Why? The minnie ball.

          The grand strategic vision of the generals was built upon the past reality of the smoothbore musket. So everyone marched to the limit of the musket's effective range, neatly aligned, shot mostly for the suppression effect, then charged with the bayonets.

          Now enter the rifles. An early rifle had three times the range of a smootbore musket. Not only that, but the hollow minnie ball would expand and break in the wound, causing a fist sized exit wound.

          So those soldiers were ordered to march and align at a distance at which firing resulted in a bloodbath. Again, and again, and again. No matter how many times those soldiers saw the catastrophe happening, no matter how sickeningly high the losses, those "wise" generals stuck to their grand vision.

          Maybe listening to a foot soldier wouldn't have been such a bad idea?

          2. When France first got their Gattling guns, someone decided that it's an artillery piece. Based on its size.

          So the soldiers were actually ordered to start firing it at 10 times its actual maximum range. By the time the enemy actually got in range, they'd be completely out of ammo.

          Again: maybe listening to a foot soldier wouldn't have been such a bad idea?
        • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:53PM (#8227255)
          I understand the military analogy, I have however, never worked in company like that. I rabidly disobey orders that I perceive as stupid, and I not only continue to be employed but receive nice bonuses. I work in a company where I have to fix the managers mistakes. I think many people do.

          My primary dysfunction with my current employment is that we are unable to undo the mistakes that matter, specifically the mistakes of upper executives who, in spite of our poor corporate performance, simply have not receive the cluons that their corporate strategy is flawed. They may see the whole battlefield as you say, but they see it as a tennis court, and the game we're playing is ping pong.

          I am a manager now. I hope somehow I am able going forward to continue to keep the grunt perspective, because i think all truly good ideas in technology start there. I work for my employees, if 5 of them tell me I'm screwing up, I probably ought to think about it. That does not mean in meetings I have to immediately kowtow, but I should endeavor not to entrench myself in a position I will be unwilling to retract later.

        • by Slider451 ( 514881 ) <(slider451) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Monday February 09, 2004 @01:38PM (#8227818)
          I like your military reference. To add:

          Straight from the U.S. Army leadership handbook, FM 22-100:

          Keep Your Soldiers Informed

          Knowing 'why' you're taking this hill instead of that hill will put a stop a lot of dumb questions and increase trust in both directions. Sometimes there's no time to inform everybody. But if you've generally done a good job of rumor-control your employees will give you the benefit of the doubt when you can't.
        • [SNIP] This is how a company "should" function. [/SNIP]

          Yes, and democracy "should" be about the People's Will. Are you here to explain how this view differs from reality, or were you just sharing a worldview that, coincidentally, emphasizes the value of your current job in Management?

          [SNIP] A fair amount of suggestions are horribly short sighted, or uninformed. [/SNIP]

          And you as a manager do not feel the need to give your employees the correct information? What are the purpose of your meetings, the

      • "Obligatory "Mmmmmmm....donuts" reference."

        Reminds me of a sure-fire laugh getter for these meetings... After 2/3rds of the attendees arrive, grab two cinnamon roles from the donut pile, hold them vertically next to your ears and state "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!" Works for me, anyway... ;)
    • by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:19AM (#8225153) Homepage
      I prefer rumors and speculation. It makes me think there is more to my job than there actually is.

      _____________________________________
    • by lone_marauder ( 642787 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:29AM (#8225246)
      At the ones that don't, rumours and gossip often take the place of what little real information you would get at a meeting, and that can do a lot to foment discontent among the workers.

      This sounds like a version of the specious "communication solves everything" argument. The problem is that communication has no intrinsic value. The question is, how meaningful is the information being communicated? Consider this tidbit:
      There are no plans to reduce staff following the merger.
      How would you treat this information if you heard it in your current company? You would panic and flee. Why? Because most of us work for people who treat bullshit like it's an art form and avarice like it's a religious law. If we worked for people who were honorable, effective managers, then certainly more communication would be better, but it's plainly obvious that what's working in that case is not the communication, but rather the confidence.
      • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:44AM (#8225383)
        The message "There are no plans to reduce staff following the merger" is a meaningful piece of information. You just need to know how to translate it from managereese into English.

        In most cases, the proper translation is "We haven't made plans to lay anyone off yet because upper managment is still fighting it out. Once we figure out who won the power struggle, anyone hired by the losing side gets the axe." The other possible intrepretation is "We're so incompetent that we can't even figure out what redundant positions exist in the two organizations. Once we grow a clue we might be able to make some plans, if we can find someone with enough balls to actually make a decision."

      • There are no plans to reduce staff following the merger.

        How would you treat this information if you heard it in your current company?

        I would give up that entire year's salary if the announcement was made in a meeting of an entire department (or three). I would fold my arms and say (at elevated volumes):

        "thanks for the information you lying cheat fuck bastard."

        Then I would walk out.

  • by vpscolo ( 737900 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:50AM (#8224906) Homepage
    Is this redundancy, they said no its a strategic realignment of the workforce to provide maximum efficency and flow. Then they made me redundant... Of course you can always play Bullshit Bingo [perkigoth.com]
    Rus
  • Uhhh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by z0ink ( 572154 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:50AM (#8224908)
    Is this a an Informational Thread of a Conflict Resolution Thread? You decide!
  • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:51AM (#8224910) Journal
    ... the infamous 'Pre-meeting meeting' though.. *shudders*
  • Most are Useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by exi1ed0ne ( 647852 ) <exile@NOSPAm.pessimists.net> on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:52AM (#8224920) Homepage
    Meetings, in my experience, are "look at me!" sessions, or senior management telling you about the cool bill of goods some sales guy sold them that we have to now implement.
  • sure (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thiago Ize ( 730287 )
    All the time at Slashdot...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:53AM (#8224938)
    ...and then subtly shift the discussion around to the dangers of the "heathen Chinee." It's such an archaic term that I can usually get half the staff agreeing with me before someone remembers a completely racist and crazy great-grandfather who used to natter on and on about "the yellow peril." It's fun watching people backpedal madly when they realise what I meant by "the wily vipers of the East." They always think I meant SCO or something and are harrumphing in agreement right up until I start raving about how no railroad was worth opening your shores to those shifty profiteers with their potions and inscrutable smiles.

    God, I love being the boss.

    Signed,
    Your Crazy English Boss

    • then subtly shift the discussion around to the dangers of the "heathen Chinee."

      Heh. I'm gonna try that one next time I'm stuck in a purchasing meeting. I reckon it'll take a long time for them to figure out what I'm talking about, since I am part Chinese.

  • by heironymouscoward ( 683461 ) <heironymouscoward&yahoo,com> on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:53AM (#8224940) Journal
    The good kinds of meeting:

    1. For active projects, once per week to review status and plan work. Without face to face meetings, projects derail rapidly.

    2. To solve problems, get the people or individuals out of their context, face-to-face for half an hour, give them attention, fix whatever's wrong.

    3. To explain emergency situations: get the whole team to stop and sit down, listen, and work together on the next steps.

    4. To sell an idea or plan: face to face with the customer, no presentations or power point, discuss the issues and use a flip board if you need to draw something.

    And the useless kinds:

    1. Anything with powerpoint.

    2. Any meeting that is not for a specific project or problem.

    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:10AM (#8225096) Journal
      A good list... I'd like to add:
      Good ones:
      5. Kick-off or alignment meetings. Basically just information exchange "So what is it we're going to do in this project?", and getting to know all key people involved. Very helpful, and doesn't need to be more than a quick rundown of the project and people introducing themselves in a few sentences. Go have a few beers afterwards with the group.

      Bad ones:
      3. Any meeting without an agenda. This applies to any type of meeting: whether you are discussing progress, issues, or just brainstorming, you still need an agenda.

      The article goes on about how you're supposed to ferret out the agenda of a meeting, and how meetings often don't have one. Personally I have found the following method to be very effective: when the meeting starts, ask "What is the agenda? We don't have one? Lets make one first!". Jot down the agenda on a flipover.

      I'm not a 'process' guy, really, but this particular method has won me over. It's a much more positive approach than determining which meetings you should get out of; instead, it will help you bring structure to otherwise hopeless and pointless meetings. The simple act of writing down the agenda for all to see, can turn a meeting destined for suckiness into a productive session.
    • by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:13AM (#8225112) Homepage
      Let us not forget the "team-building" meeting. Nothing like hanging out with people from work that I can barely tolerate during the work day on my own time. Yay!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:53AM (#8224946)
    The last meeting I attended was to decide our companies mission statement. I used something from Dilbert's mission statement generator and won!
  • by CountBrass ( 590228 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#8224949)

    Easy.

    Step 1, qualify all meetings before attending - do I *really* need to be there? Do I *really* need to be there for the whole meeting?

    Step 2, if a meeting is drifting into uselessness - say something - eg "Are we finished dealing with (important things X,Y and Z)" people either agree we are and the meeting ends, or not and the meeting gets back on track.

    Step 3, the ultimate sanction. If your presence at a meeting is doing neither you nor anyone else any good - don't be afraid to leave. You know, say you have some stuff to do, get up, and walk out.

    And finally, never, ever bitch about useless meetings - people just remember you as a whiner - doesn't matter if you're right or not.

    • by Jetifi ( 188285 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:12AM (#8225107) Homepage

      Also, never go to a meeting that has no agenda. If the meeting has a subject, treat it as a one-point agenda. Any offtopic points should be put on the agenda for the next meeting. This applies to all types of meetings.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:04AM (#8225559)
        Parent is dead on, and I'd take it one step further: don't attend meetings that have no agenda if you can at all avoid it. There are some "crisis" meetings that cannot be avoided, but if you get called to a meeting ALWAYS email the meeting organizer and ask for an agenda -- "Reply to all" can be you friend here, because it puts the "public eye" on the meeting caller.

        If they reply with something vague or don't reply at all, you're off the hook. If someone asks why you weren't at the meeting, you can just say that that you were busy with X and that the agenda had nothing to do with your projects.

        There's no escaping some meetings (called by bosses, crises, etc), and sometimes a meeting without an agenda gets called specifically to submarine people who won't attend an agendaless meeting ("We met yesterday and discussed your project..."), but not participating unless an agenda is prepared can definitely help prevent yak sessions where nothing gets done.
  • by Highlordexecutioner ( 203297 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#8224951) Homepage
    We take bets on how times my boss will say Action Item, Paradigm Shift and Mission Statement.
  • by Polkyb ( 732262 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:54AM (#8224958)

    Bored during meetings? Why not try some of these neat little exercises, not only will it make meetings more interesting but your fellow workmates will become suddenly more alert and maintain a respectful distance:

    During a meeting:

    Discreetly clasp the hold of someone's hand and whisper "Can you feel it?" from the corner of your mouth.

    Draw enormous genitalia on your notepad and discreetly show it to the person next to you for their approval.

    When refreshments are presented, immediately distribute one biscuit to each of the attendees then systematically smash each one with your fist in front of them.

    Wear a hand free phone headset throughout. Once in a while drift off into an unrelated conversation, such as "I don't care if there are no dwarfs, just get the show done!"

    Write the words 'he fancies you' on your pad and show it to the person next to you while indicating with your pen.

    Respond to a serious question with "I don't know what to say, obviously I'm flattered, but it's all happened so fast.

    Use 'Nam style jargon' such as 'what's the ETA?', 'who's on recon?' and 'Charlie don't surf!'

    Reconstruct the meeting in front of you using action figures and when anyone moves re-arrange the figures accordingly.

    Shave one of your forearms.

    Draw a chalk circle around one of the chairs then avoid sitting on it when the meeting starts. When someone does eventually sit on it, cover your mouth and gasp.

    Turn your back on the meeting and sit facing the window with your legs stretched out. Announce that 'you love this dirty old town!'

    Walk directly up to a colleague and stand nose to nose with him/her for one minute.

    Mount the desk and walk along it's length before taking your seat.

    Reflect sunlight into everyone's eyes off your watch face.

    Gargle with water.

    Repeat every idea they express in a baby voice while moving your hand like a chattering mouth.

    Gradually push yourself closer and closer to the door on your chair.

    Hum throughout.

    Pull out a large roll of bank notes and count them demonstratively.

    Bend momentarily under the table then emerge wearing contact lenses that white out your eyes.

    Drop meaningless and confusing management speak into conversations such as:
    'What's the margin, Marvin?'
    'When's this turkey going to get basted?'
    'If we don't get this brook babbling we're all going to end up looking like doe-eyed Labradors'

    Produce a hamster from your pocket and suggest throwing it to one another as a means of idea-exchange.

    Use a large hunting knife to point at your visual aids.

    Announce that you've run off some copies of the meeting agenda for everyone. Then hand out pieces of paper that read:
    My Secret Agenda
    1. Trample the weak
    2. Triumph alone
    3. Invade Poland
    Recollect them sheepishly and ask everyone to pretend they haven't seen them.

    Attempt to hypnotise the entire room using a pocket watch.

    Leave long pauses in your speech at random moments. When someone is prompted to interject shout 'I AM NOT FINISHED'.

  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:55AM (#8224967) Homepage
    We had Conflict Resolution meetings in high school.

    The "Conflict Manager," as they were called, actually followed a script for the meeting, from a paper in plain view of those in attendance (the two kids that were fighting).

    I still remember the script (I had a lot of those meetings), and it went like this:

    "So, you both agree that you are here to solve a problem?"
    "Student X, what is it about Student Y with which you have an issue?"
    "Student Y, what is it about Student X with which you have an issue?"
    "Now, what can we do to resolve these issues?"
    "Do you both agree to take the steps we have outlined here?" (Always "Yes.")
    "Do you think we will need to see you two in the future?" ("No.")
    "Well then, thank you very much."

    And so it would be, until we fought again and were dragged into another Conflict Resolution meeting--held by a different CM this time, so as not to give the appearance of repetition. But like I said, I went a lot.
    • "I still remember the script (I had a lot of those meetings), and it went like this"

      Please allow me to fill in those gaps! *grin*

      Conflict Manager: "So, you both agree that you are here to solve a problem?"
      Conflict Manager: "Student X, what is it about Student Y with which you have an issue?"
      Student X: "Student Y keeps giving me shit for using Windows and fueling the evil empire even though I didn't pay for it."
      Conflict Manager: "Student Y, what is it about Student X with which you have an issue?"
      S

  • by IV-Swamp ( 744272 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:55AM (#8224973) Homepage
    My old boss was fired I believe solely on the basis that the engineering meetings we were having were useless. It was actually quit sad. He had the meetings mostly to just keep up with the progress of our assorted projects. The fact is all the projects were so distant from each other that most of us just sat around listing to
    reports that had nothing to do with us for over an hour. If you manage well meetings can be kept to a minimum. Also their are so many project software packages out there (MS Project 2004 "shudder") that meetings are becoming more extraneous.
  • I love meetings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:57AM (#8224986)
    You get to kick back and relax, get free coffe and biscuits, chat with people you don't normally see, and pretend your doing something important without actually doing the slightest bit of work.

    Even better are foreign trips, which are the same, but you get an all expenses paid holiday to boot. And all this while earning a salary. It almost makes me want to become a manager.

    • I wouldn't mind meetings like that. Seriously. what I get is no coffee, no biscuits, the people are people I see every day and I need to spend the time paying very close attention to make sure I don't end up with yet another job to add to my 4-dimensional priority-queue based schedule.

      Refreshment-accompanied, novel, low work meetings would be job heaven!
  • my favorites (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgabby ( 158126 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:57AM (#8224988) Journal
    My favorite meetings are the ones where the boss tells us "Okay, you guys get together and figure out how to do this." He then shows up to the meeting and proceeds to tell us what we're going to do. When we try to explain that there may be better options, he pulls out the "I've got 31 years of experience" card, and ends the meeting...

    We just wait until he leaves the room and then get back to work :)
  • by secondsun ( 195377 ) <secondsun@gmail.com> on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:58AM (#8224999) Journal
    Public educaiton in the USA is a wack meeting. First we teachers are given a few days of preplanning where we are at school working, but we have to go to about 8 meetings in 3 days to get caught up on the latest state imposed paperwork. Next you have the Superintendent showing up telling us what he would like to see without actually saying anything for about 30-45 minutes. Then when it is nearly over and he gets that I need a Subway look in his eyes someone raises her hand and asks the question... "Why do you think your ideas will change anything?" At which point any student caught pulling the fire alarm could easily get enough money from a collection from the faculty to hire a really scummy lawyer to get him out of trouble.

  • by ArcticPuppy ( 592282 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @08:59AM (#8225003) Journal
    ..could be used for something a 100% more productive. As a developer i get summoned to all kinds of meetings. I am one of the architects behind a rather large application that we sell to our customers. The most unproductive kind of meetings i am called to are the ones involving our sales people. About 20% of my time goes to sitting in meetings with our sales staff and prospects selling the solution. These are not prestudies, they are pure sales-meetings where a short demo is run, and some fancy acronyms get passed around. When confronted by the fact that i could spend my time far more productively doing my actual job, most of them stated that they dont feel comfortable on their own with our product (its moderatly complex). So this past week i spent a couple of afternoons teaching our sales-reps the system from the ground up, in the hope that they will be able to do things on their own from now on.
    The other meeting time-sink are the weekly department meetings. Specifically the part where everyone has to tell everyone else what they have been doing the last week. This consists of 1-2 hours (we are 5 employees) of mind-numbingly boring monologues from people who like to hear their own voice. Please send help.
  • by gregarican ( 694358 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:11AM (#8225099) Homepage
    There's a quote I recall. Not sure of who the originator is. Perhaps a 12-step thing:

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, only to expect different results.

    This was always something I keep in mind when performing IT frontline troubleshooting. But thank God I am not one of the PHB's who need to keep this in mind when in pointless meetings. Which reminds me of another quote that was said during my days of working for a Fortune 500 company while at their CHQ in meeting after meeting.

    Me: You guys have meetings all day. How do y'all get any work done in between?

    PHB: That's the idea!

  • Language IS hard. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aaron_Pike ( 528044 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:14AM (#8225115) Homepage
    From the article:

    Meetings are always going to be inefficient because language is hard.

    As clearly demonstrated by the writing in this article.

    This Rands person has some very good points. Still (and feel free to mod me down for saying so), it's hard to take advice on organizational makeup from someone who gets "here" and "hear" mixed up. (That being said, I think I'll carefully check my grammar and spelling before I post this...)

  • Depends (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:18AM (#8225147)
    It really depends on what people are attending the meeting, and that the goal is with the meeting.

    In my firm (not mine, but I like to think so) - we conduct a friday meeting, where the different departments talks about issues, something to be changed etc. It's my understanding[1], that it's always the bosses that are talking, and even when they try, they really can't wring out information from the employees. Especially if it evolves feelings etc. (say a personal/professional conflict).

    So it depends on people, and how much they 'believe' in the firm. Ie. are they ready to admit their faults/fault regarding a case, and are they willing to take a punch to get it resolved. Usually it turns out that the bosses have to spy around to detect such thing, or get the information from a third party.

    The meetings I attend (which is mostly with the bosses) are on a different level. I have never attended such meeting without getting a issue resolved - simply because I do not fear for my position. I always have the studies to fully concentrate on, and the job salary after done studying is much better than my current. So the position of the employee matters a lot, and what personality they have.

    It's strange, that in a small company like 'mine' (we aren't more than 12) - the communication is still lacking in many areas, and conflicts are allowed to reach an unpleasant level before steps are taken to resolve it.

    [1] I don't participate in these meetings, since I'm studying at that time.
  • by pudge_lightyear ( 313465 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:25AM (#8225211) Homepage
    I work for a meeting-happy fortune 500 company and here's what I've learned about it. The only way to stay out of pointless meetings is to not have them happen in the first place!

    There are many people in depts that I work with who meet 8-5 monday through friday. These people constantly try to include you in meetings and frequently try to set up recurring meetings (the real beasts). You can sit through these things and try to be "cutting edge" or you can sleep... or whatever, but there's always the same outcome. Nothing gets done. This is because these people live to meet. That's what they identify their importance at their jobs by... "Whooo... it was a busy day... I HAD MEETINGS ALL DAY!!!"

    Ok... here's how you do it. If it's a customer in the company (or another)... you HAVE to do the following:

    1. ALWAYS APPEAR BUSY - of course you're not... but you have to give this impression. They know that as a developer, your time is important... and if they think that the meeting will really set you back, they're less likely to schedule it.

    2. If it's more of a when can we do it meeting... take care of it (or start and have the answer to it) before you get there. This leads to shorter meetings. Then remind them... "I'm busy... I have to get back and work."

    3. A recurring meeting is something you fight as though your life depended on it. These things will suck the life out of you... do whatever you can to convince the customer this isn't neccessary.

    There you have it... not the complete list, but a good start.
  • by spottedkangaroo ( 451692 ) * on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:36AM (#8225319) Homepage

    I resent it when I get pulled into a meeting. People know this. So if they pull me into one it's usually for a good reason.

    Now, here's my rule. If a meeting lasts more than 10 minutes it's wrong. If the meeting get's to the 5 minute mark and we have not yet accomplished anything, I take over the meeting, determine what needs doing and split it up. I then declare the meeting over.

    You should never ever do something at a meeting. You talk about what needs doing, briefly and then go back to work.

    My company is not very corporate... I'm told it's worse at big companies. I can't imagine how people can stand it.

  • by COredneck ( 598733 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:44AM (#8225381)
    I have a sheet of paper posted prominently in my office. It is a parody of holding meetings and shows my feelings about almost all meetings being a waste of time.

    Are you Lonely ?

    Don't like working on your own ?
    Hate Making Decisions ?

    Then Call a Meeting !!!!

    YOU CAN...
    • SEE people
    • DRAW Flowcharts
    • FEEL Important
    • IMPRESS your collegues
    All on Company Time


    MEETINGS

    The pratical alternative to work.
  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:45AM (#8225395)

    (With bad project managers)

    1. If you raise a point, you own it
    2. Tasks are assigned to people not present (unless you raised a point)

    So be sure to show up and be quiet. Pay attention or you may miss an opporutnity to have tasks assigned to somebody who isn't present.

  • by asr_man ( 620632 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:46AM (#8225407)

    ...as a meeting. If you want entertaining cynical hummor about how to suffer meetinghood, read the "Meetings" chapter in The Dilbert Principle. This article is a crude imitator's windy first draft by comparison.

    And yes, 90% of the time is wasted if you take a narrow "information transfer" point of view. It isn't. Steven Pinker said it best in The Language Instinct:

    "
    Human communication is not just a transfer of information like two fax machines connected with a wire, it is a series of alternating displays of behavior by sensitive, scheming, second-guessing, social animals."

    (We might add superstitious, egocentric, paranoid, deluded, projecting, as the case may be.)

  • Planted questions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:49AM (#8225432)
    Recently went to a mandatory *shudder* all-employee meeting because the VP was in town. Big, big company. Anyway, the morning of the meeting, the head of operations comes around, and he hands me a slip of paper. It has a topic on it. It seems like nobody asks questions at these meetings, so they decided to hold a "focus group" to come up with questions. Then they took those questions, and gave them to people to ask.

    I was surprised by the whole thing, so I didn't get a chance to say no. I was actually given a topic, not a question. "The use of the rating and ranking system in the company" They use a ratings and ranking system in the company, commonly known as "rank and yank" where all the managers have to rank their people from 1 to N. Then all the managers get together and put their lists together, aka horse trading. Eventually, there is a top 15%, bottom 15%, and middle 70%. I decided that I wouldn't just ask what it was, I would ask them a hardline question about it. Something along the lines of "Why did we choose to implement a rating and ranking system, even though the only people it really benefits is upper management?"

    Well, the meeting ran long, and some of the planted people got to ask their question, but not me. Wow, you could really tell that the questions were planted too, it was embarassing. So after the meeting, I talked to the op director and asked why they didn't just give the questions to the VP instead of making it seem like people were just coming up with them? He said that it was the VP's idea to plant the questions in the audience, and he did know what they were going to be. He just wanted it to look spontaneous.

    I still can't quite believe it.
  • by fr0dicus ( 641320 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:59AM (#8225521) Journal
    (with a nod to rands)

    HLUAGHLUAGAGLHAUG

  • one hour (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plopez ( 54068 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @09:59AM (#8225524) Journal
    No meeting should ever last more than an hour. THe individual calling the meeting is responsible for defining the agenda, which defines the information and the problems to be solved. Everyone needs to know why they are there and what to expect. If neccessary discussion is moved off line once the stake holders are identified.

    THese rules are so simple I can't understand why supposedly educated and experienced managers can't get it right. It is a simple organiizational task.

    Sometimes an hour is too short and it dribbles over to 1 hour and 15 minutes. I don't think I have had a 2 hour meeting I was running in years.

    If you are not the person calling the meeting demand an explicit written agenda, tell the person calling that you have some important tasks to do right after the meeting and if it is going poorly push to have the discussions taken off line of from sub-committess.

    Simple organizational principals which work over 90% of the time.
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:08AM (#8225601) Homepage
    I used to work at this company that had meetings all the time. People were meeting happy. I finally realized it wasn't because they actually needed to have them, but because everyone was extremely lazy and clueless and wanted to look busy enough not to be fired.

    When something would break somewhere in the organization, *EVERY* manager would get on a conference call together. So you have 20 managers on this conference call, and no tech guys. So, you have 20 people, clueless about technology trying to theorize where the problem lies. Then, they would call random tech people and *MAKE* them reboot machines and network equipment until the problem went away. Even if someone found the problem, it was always "try rebooting first, that will fix it faster".

    A meeting was also where it was decided that putting an IP Stack on the old Novell 3.51 fileserver was too dangerous, and they needed to continue to use IPX (and make me route it on their already fucked up network). But, they needed it backed up and the backup software needed the IP stack. So, they ran a script every night that installed the IP stack, did the backup, and then uninstalled the IP stack. Fucking brilliant.

    Any meeting where a new project or new equipment was being ordered for something was attended only by managers. When one of them would make a suggestion, everyone would just agree because it sounded to them like a good idea. "Hey everyone, we're having trouble with this application we built which originally worked over dialup, but now that it's on the network, data comes back too fast and it crashes". So instead of just fixing their damn app by increasing the buffer size, they tell us (the network guys) to SLOW THE NETWORK DOWN for the app.

    There's a poster on despair.com that says "Meetings - None of us are as dumb as all of us"
  • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:14AM (#8225677)
    I remember the CEO coming out to give us a pep talk on how great the comany was doing and that we should all just keep working hard. My one question was "So, are you personally buying or selling your stock in the company?" Not only did he not answer the question, he seemed downright pissed off at me...
  • by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @10:45AM (#8225954) Journal
    You can always play "Boardroom Bullshit Bingo". You get all your co-workers together and set up cards like in bingo. However, instead of the usual numbers, what you do is fill in each space in the sheet with a timeless phrase of managment bs such as "out of the box", "synergy", "maximizing potentional", or any phrase that has the word 'motivation' in it without the word 'money'. You then set up an agreed upon sign to alert the others when you have won (for example: tapping the table with your pencil) since shouting 'bingo' in the meeting would not only look odd but also would alert the management as to what is really going on. Then during the meeting you all sit and look like you're paying attention and wait for the manager/management to start the spouting. As each phrase is uttered, you cross it off and hope for the win.
  • by silverbax ( 452214 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:29AM (#8226377)
    Having worked for a few large and small coporations, one of the biggest indicators of the corporate culture is how the meetings are conducted.

    For one company, when I was in a management position, it was drilled into us not to come to a meeting without a specific agenda. If there was no agenda, there was no meeting. Period. Do not call a meeting unless you are actually attempting to do your job better.

    For another company, meetings followed no timetable. They would drift in and out of discussions, and often the people invited to the meeting shouldn't have all been in the same meeting. You can't have the marketing people trying to hammer out strategy while the tech guys are trying to figure out how to make the products link up.

    Some companies only have meetings to convey information. Sometimes these are large meetings designed to look like town meetings, but just as the article stated, only a few idiots believe that. I try to avoid these meetings. You want me to get some information about the company? Send me an email. I don't care if nobody else reads it, I do and I don't lose two hours out of my day.

    My meeting rules, from my personal experience:

    1. Don't go to any meetings unless you have an agenda. It doesn't have to be printed out, but you need to have some goal for the meeting beyond just sitting and talking.

    2. Do not have mixed dept meetings unless it's a getting-to-know-you meeting. If it's a meet-and-greet, then say so up front. Every time someone tries to divert the meeting, just say "Let's table that discussion for a more focused meeting". You don't want the sales people talking shop while the tech guys are staring into space and vice versa.

    3. Some people work by talking, some work by doing. This isn't a statement of laziness; it's just that different jobs require different interactions. Programmers work by sitting at their desktop writing code. Marketers work by grouping together and talking through their concepts. Don't confuse meetings with work when it isn't,but also don't assume meetings accomplish nothing.

    Some groups DO have meetings all day and they DO accomplish something. For most tech guys, any time away from networking or hacking is time lost.
    But if you're a tech and you call a tech meeting to brainstorm architecture for a new project, that's still worthwhile work. It goes both ways.
  • by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:33AM (#8226433)

    I do desktop support and at one job I was asked to go to about 8 hours worth of database meetings each week that I had nothing to do with. For the first couple of weeks, I tried to pay attention and input my opinion, but I found I really had no opinion on what they were doing with the various tables. I was sort of upset that I couldn't actually be doing work during this time but the boss insisted that the entire team be there.

    Eventually I settled into playing chess on my palm Pilot at all these meetings. Eventually, somebody raised a questions about what was said several hours earlier in th meeting and somebody said "Ask Marc, he's taking notes." While I was slowly realizig they were talking about me and came out of my chess game, my co-worker looked over at what I was doing and anounced "He's playing chess!" Everybody just shruggd and went back tot he meeting. From then on I stopped gong to said meetings and stayed in the office doing work and nobody ever ever bothered me about it.

  • by ajd ( 199697 ) <adam@@@adamdavidson...com> on Monday February 09, 2004 @11:57AM (#8226683)
    I was a producer at a public radio station in the Midwest. This means that every staff meeting was filled with middle-market talk show hosts whose one marketable feature is that they love to talk and talk. Those are some awful meetings. One goes on and on, then the next one feels they haven't been listened to then the next. Man, it's painful.
  • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:01PM (#8226713) Homepage Journal
    ... or anywhere really is: "What problem does this solve?" Back in my Bell Labs days, one of my mentors used to ask this question of me a lot whenever I proposed an idea. It used to annoy me, but I've come to realize the value: it cuts through all the nonsense of useless ideas. It forces the proponent to state the actual benefit and get to the bottom line.

    When I ask this question of others, I usually at least get several seconds of stunned silence in response. Asking this question of others often tends to annoy and frustrate them just like it used to do the same to me, so it won't make you friends with them, however. But it sure cuts through the crap.

  • by forkboy ( 8644 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:09PM (#8226785) Homepage
    When I was a a tech for Global Crossing, we had text pagers that any servers we were responsible for would send error messages to. Most people kept them on vibrate as the beep was really annoying. I was on the security team, so the IDS also paged me when a certain threshold of suspicious activity was received.

    Anyway, if a meeting dragged on for too long and seemed useless, I'd pick up my pager, look all freaked out, and hurry out of the room. This trick caught on with most of the admins. Management thought we were so dedicated to our network.

  • by chuckw ( 15728 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:52PM (#8227251) Homepage Journal
    So I read the entire article and then I realized... the joke's on us...
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday February 09, 2004 @01:32PM (#8227735) Homepage Journal
    I am posting too late for anyone to see but anyway. At my last job we had some useless meetings happenning sometimes so at one of them I just decided to stenograph, take notes on what people are saying. Of-course it is funnier to me since I know these people, but still, here it is:

    Meeting: Architect, VP, PM, BA, Tester, DBA, QA Manager, Developer1 (me), Developer2.

    1. Architect is going over the use cases, he is saying: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... blah, blah, blah, blah.

    PM: What? OK.

    2. BA: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah?

    3. Architect: blah, bleh, bleh, bleh, blah, blah!!! WTF?

    PM: What? OK.

    4. QA Manager: Blah???!!! I have to do work? BLAH #)$! *twit @%@$!

    5. VP: Blah, Bleh, Blah, Bleh, Bleh, Bleh, Blah, Blah, Bleh, blah, blah, Bleh, Bleh, Blah, Blah, Blah.

    6. QA Manager: ?

    PM: What? OK.

    7. VP: Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah,
    (goes on for 5 minutes)

    8. Developer2: WTF?

    PM: What? OK.

    9. Architect: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, DAO, blah, blah, blah, EJB, blah, blah.

    10. BA: Blah, blah, quering mechanism... (what???) Blah.

    11. Architect: ?!!!

    12. Developer1: ?!!!

    13. Developer2: ?!!!

    14. QA Manager: Buy on eBay! (his other business)

    15. VP: Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, (5 minutes) Blah, No Limitations, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, (5 more minutes)

    16. PM: What? OK.

    17. VP: Blah, Blah, Blah, (5 minutes) years of experience, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, (ten minutes)

    18. QA: bbblllaaaaaaaabbbbbhhllllaaaaaalllllllbbbbb.

    19. VP: Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, .. (fifteen more minutes)

    20. BA: blah......

    21. VP: Blah, Blah, .... (another half an hour)

    ---

    Can you guess whether we solved the problem in that meeting?

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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