No one is said to like meetings, I used to love meetings, because I felt I was good in them. Now I am little more than ambivalent about meetings. I don’t necessarily like them and I don’t hate them I am just sort of well ok another one bites the dust. Meetings do have a place it is said to offer a nearly perfect way to cut through the fog of multiparty, impersonal communication and place people on equal footings. Equal footing can be established in person or via electronic means, for instance skype and its many competitors are mediums to conduct meetings even though those meetings are not done in the same room.
There are several researchers who have been examining the types and manner of exchanges within a meeting environment. One I like was published back in 2001 and while it is considered out of date by today’s academic standards, it does offer some tantalizing information. After studying business meetings (903 in fact) it was found that most meetings were:
“Staff Meeting (45%)
Held in Company Conference Room (74%)
Starting at 11:00 AM
Lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes
Involves 9 people (2 managers, 4 coworkers, 2 subordinates, & 1
Two hours prior warning
No advance written agenda (63%)
Somewhat or very informal (76%)
Most or all present actively participate (72%)
Uses handouts (47%)
Completely covers agenda only one-half of the time (53%)
Eleven percent of the time is spent discussing irrelevant issues” (Romano & Nunamaker, 2001)
Now this is only a listing of what the researchers studied, for instance if all meetings were studied (the backyard over the fence exchanges, these numbers would change a great deal). Notice they found that 11% of the time is wasted. I think that might be a little low. Heck I have been able to waste time in any meeting I ever attended. In fact I have sort of perfected wasting time so the meetings I have attend by and large have much larger percentages of time wasted, but that is just me.
Anyway I bring this up because last night I attended, the annual homeowners meeting of our little 29 unit subdivision. I left early because I could not stand to sit and watch where things were going. I won’t give a blow by blow, because 1.) I didn’t stay so I don’t know what happened after I left and 2.) It is sort of inside ball and it would mean little to others.
The reason I left Started with a planned character assignation of one of our board members. It was fairly well executed by a husband and wife team. When I was in the business world I could not stand to watch character assignations. In the past I might have even been able to conduct one when needed. But last night I just couldn’t sit and watch it happen. The crazy thing is I could even sympathize with their issue. I just could not stand by and watch this public execution happen. I think it was the perpetrators of the ambush that made me almost ill.
The second thing was watching these same two people hi jack the meeting and no one (the chairperson) counteracting their new found power. It really made me almost ill to watch it. For years, before I starting running meetings, I advised about how to control such behavior. The number one source of most of us who dabbled in this line of work was “Rules for radicals; a practical primer for realistic radicals” (Alinsky, 1971). Basically the idea is that if you know how to disrupt meetings, you know in advance how to stop such disruptions. Last evening, even though these two did not know it they were employing tactics shown to be effective in this book. Namely they attacked in mass, they both spoke in rapid succession saying the same points but in increasingly loud talk, they sprung a verbal trap without telegraphing their prior intent, they had at least one confederate in the audience, and had professed inside information thus giving them credibility not counteracted by the knowledge of the other participants. Anyway, it was way too much for my stomach, chiefly the inappropriate response by the chair. I mean when you consider yourself a professional at stopping such nonsense watching it unfold can make a man ill. I was almost ill by the time I left the meeting.
So why does this warrant a blog on TUDiabetes? No reason really, except it makes me appreciate even more how well our little organization is run and the dedication I see from volunteers and our meager paid staff. I have attended some Thursday afternoon information sessions and I have to say how appreciative I am of Emily and the way she handles the assembled crowd. I attended the session with Dr. Lois Jovanovič and if one of these was going to get out of hand it was this one. Yet Emily kept it in check and focused. I have to say she did a masterful job. But in support were the volunteers. Emily could not keep things in check and at the same time pose the questions, unless the members behaved and self-policed their actions. It was impressive to watch even if it was the custom of the site to shy away from confrontation.
So my message today is really for everyone thank you, you are all doing a great job. These thanks from a guy who studied how to disrupt things and is pretty darn good at it. I mean real good at it.
Alinsky, Saul David. (1971). Rules for radicals; a practical primer for realistic radicals ([1st ed.). New York,: Random House.
Romano, Nicholas, & Nunamaker, Jay. (2001). Meeting Analysis: Findings from Research and Practice. Paper presented at the 34th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2001 Maui Hawaii.