Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Mar 26 2012   9:18AM GMT

The culture of endless meetings

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

In the corporate sector, we cannot do without meetings. We have small group-meetings, departmental meetings, project meetings, review meetings, steering committee meetings, HR initiated meetings, task force meetings, budget meetings, strategy meetings, suppliers meeting, customers meeting, quality circle meetings, management committee meetings and so on.  On a day when there is no meeting there is a feeling of emptiness, a feeling that the day has been wasted. Whenever my wife would call me I would tell her that I am busy in meeting and will call back later. That prompted her to enquire that if I was in meetings all day, when do I really work.

So friends, here we are in a new world of corporate culture where meeting is the mainstay of corporate work ethos. Corporate pundits say that meetings are the way to demonstrate participation, sharing, collective responsibility, brainstorming, and widespread acceptability of decisions. They say meetings give a respite from the drudgery of work, draw away executives from their work bench for a while, make them socially acceptable, and also make them accountable to others.

Some companies go a step beyond by arranging such meetings in 5-star hotels or other exotic locations in the name of focused undisturbed attention and as a break from the routine. People enjoy such outings and obviously vote in favor of more such outings. Managements are happy that employees are busy and working together to achieve company’s goals. The human resources departments often facilitate many of these meetings and give an impression of being people-centric and of promoting a congenial work atmosphere.

The larger the time that one spends on meeting, greater is his acceptability and gives him a better chance of scaling up the corporate ladder. In fact, the more senior you are in the hierarchy, greater is the demand for your time and advice and so are expected to be benevolent enough to lend your valuable time and expertise to the group.

Types of meetings

During my career I have come across meetings of various types, some of these being:

Daily meetings: These are short review meetings held religiously every morning or the afternoon to have a daily account of happening of the previous day or plans for the day. These include the production meetings, quality review meetings, or the sales review meetings. These are usually half-an-hour to one hour in duration and may or may not involve maintaining the minutes of meetings.

Meetings called impromptu: It is usually the boss who decides to call for a meeting with short notice either to announce a decision, to review bad performance, to review customer complaints, etc. It is the boss’ call and usually the subordinates have to obey and leave their urgent work aside.

Project review meetings: These are useful when called with due seriousness and to a set agenda. If properly done, a tight control could be exercised on the projects and such assignments may not see delay or disaster.

Formal meetings: These are usually the ones which have a formal agenda and gives due notice to participants to make themselves free for the occasion. A senior person generally chairs the meetings and these are long duration meetings extending to half a day or a full day. Speakers are identified who make presentations and the proceedings and decisions are formally recorded as minutes of meeting.

Monthly review meetings: These meetings give an impression of a structured management process and form a part of the executive calendar. These are monthly sales, finance, production, supply chain or management committee meets and some of these are chaired by functional heads or the CEO. Formal minutes are drawn and circulated to the participants.

Miscellaneous meetings: These are the others held for operational purposes which include departmental meetings, meetings with vendors, customer, etc. These also have the value and gives satisfaction to the initiator of these meetings and the invitees.

So there are meetings galore which add color to the work atmosphere and ensuring we are never bored. Work gets done in any case and it is nothing wrong getting huddled in a group for discussion – after all it is a legitimate official activity.

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