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Bravo, Bravissimo (5, Insightful)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845512)

> meeting time has gone down from as much as 30 hours per week to as little as 2 hours per week

Bravo, Bravissimo. Many of us have been aware of time wasted on meetings for quite a while.

Let's be clear, planning is necessary and some meetings still might be needed. I guess almost everybody knows what I am talking about... ;-))

I am sure Dilbert hasn't got the monopoly on this topic but here are some links anyway...

http://www.dilbert.com/strips/comic/2008-11-23/ [dilbert.com]

http://www.dilbert.com/fast/2001-12-15/ [dilbert.com]

http://www.revold.no/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Dilbert_MeetingMadness.jpg [revold.no]

http://brontesaurus.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/dilbert-meeting.gif [brontesaurus.com]

http://www.dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/30000/1000/900/31967/31967.strip.gif [dilbert.com]

http://slcta.net/images/dilbert2007112223221.gif [slcta.net]

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845584)

It's almost funny (if it didn't demonstrate certain sad mindset...) that the columnist from TFA proposes ways to make this "meetingless" management effective.

While, in large part, this shift to a less bloated meetings is a measure of increased effectivness.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845852)

As much as we all despise meetings, they are often needed. I've seen email exchanges go on for days arguing about something that could have been resolved in about 15 minutes with a simple conference call. There's also the issue that workers can tend to feel lost or abandoned if they don't have at least semi-regular communication with their bosses, even if it's just a weekly status meeting. For whatever reason, email communication just doesn't serve the same purpose as effectively.

30 hours per week of meetings is definitely excessive (and lots of people in my organization have that and even more scheduled every single week), but 2 hours is, in most cases (especially for management), too little. The key is balance and making sure the meetings you schedule are effective and serve a definite purpose. Further, invitee lists for individual meetings should only include essential personnel. I've seen plenty of times when someone isn't quite sure who to invite, so rather than taking the time to find out they'll just invite anyone they can think of who might possibly have some input, which makes meetings chaotic and overly long. Further, recurring meetings should be kept short and to the point. Scheduling an hour every week is usually not necessary for most things, and if you schedule it people tend to try to fill that time, even when they don't have anything of real substance to add.

Meetings are not the scourge of business, improperly managed meetings are.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (3, Interesting)

Altus (1034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845978)

One of the thing I like about Agile development (and its got some huge flaws no doubt) is the 15 minute daily meeting. It replaces status reports which take too long, are rarely accurate and are often not read by bosses or coworkers and replaces them with a fast, efficient meeting (if done correctly) where everyone gets a quick update on what other people are up too. It helps you to see your part in the overall project, helps to spot issue before they come up and give you some face time with the team and your boss.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846558)

We don't use agile in our department, but we have adopted the daily checkpoint meeting for these very reasons. Issues don't fester very long with this approach and a decision is typically made pretty quickly. When a decision can't be made that day, someone takes away an action item to make/secure that decision.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846262)

In most real world meetings a participant's "CPU usage" is mostly idle during the entire meeting. This is very inefficient.

From a productivity point of view a big potential benefit of IM/IRC meetings is that participants can be in more than one meeting at the same time (and maybe even do other stuff too).

Also it is less disruptive if people leave the meeting briefly (toilet etc) and come back - because they can scroll back to see what they missed. As for minutes, they can just do a summary at the end (e.g. who is going to do what and by when) and then submit the entire log to a designated place (so managers/others can have a record of what's happening).

By allocating certain days/periods for "formal" IM meetings to be held, and allowing them to overlap, you can free up more time for people to do stuff that requires full concentration.

These sort of meetings might not be so acceptable with external parties, but they should be fine for many internal meetings.

I've actually suggested this at my workplaces before, but so far most seem to prefer "traditional meetings".

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (2, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846728)

IM is appreciated when people have a set amount of work that isn't time-based.

Face time is preferred when no one gives a shit and you just want to not sit at your desk for an hour.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (3, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846272)

As much as we all despise meetings, they are often needed. I've seen email exchanges go on for days arguing about something that could have been resolved in about 15 minutes with a simple conference call.

Then again, communicating properly in text is a skill that can be learned and developed. Young people who spend their lives text messaging have a great deal more experience expressing themselves in text than the previous generation, which may lead to more productive digital conversations.

Also, IM is different from email in that it is much easier to have a back-and-forth like in a spoken conversation. It also discourages having a huge CC list like emails where 15 people have to wade through two people's misunderstanding, saving the company a lot of time.

Furthermore, in some topics text can have a higher effective bandwidth than the spoken word. For programmers, the ability to send properly formatted code snippets back and forth is a big advantage over sitting in a meeting room with a white board. Plus, for a lot of problems you just need sparse but frequent communication with someone while you are working, and IM is perfect for when you aren't in the same room.

Meetings are not the scourge of business, improperly managed meetings are.

Kudos to that!

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

clay_shooter (1680300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846430)

Can I have my unused mod points back? Well run meetings can have a point and can advance the project/business. Poorly organised meetings are a time waster. 15 min standup meetings seem to work well. Recurring status or other meetings that can be great when they only cover the actual agenda. Electronic meeting support tools like email length the decision making process and provide all kinds of opportunities for misunderstanding. Live meetings can let you close a problem / issue on a schedue. The bandwidth a meeting run by IM is a loT slower so you you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for someone to finish typing. Of course that can be good since most of the time you're doing other work during the meeting and not paying attention. How many folks say they like IM meetings but really mean "my other stuff is more important than this meeting"?

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

rwven (663186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846738)

You're exactly right about the 15 minute conference call. No one is complaining about 15 minute meetings here there.

Actually misguided (5, Informative)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845816)

Technology, in and of itself, will not improve meetings. Effective management improves meetings.

Give a group of inefficient people an IM client, and they will be inefficient people IMing all day and interrupting.

I learned a lot about running meetings from effective managers and ineffective ones. My favorite example was a Senior VP for a regional bank. He held monthly meeting with all managers. Each manager was alloted time to speak. But you better damn well have something to say. Most managers passed time off to the next. Only the hihglights that really impacted the group as a whole got shared. Generally 15-20 people invited. Meetings 15-20 minutes. It was effective use of time, effective information. managers could seek each other out if they had other things to discuss.

Want to have good meetings?
* Invite only those that should be there. You don't need 3 marketing guys for your project kickoff meeting
* Above 8 or 9 invitees is a big fat warning sign.
* Have a written agenda. Circulate it beforehand.
* Have a hard end time to meetings. Make it intentionally shorter than it usually would go.
* Make decisions beforehand with the key people. Most decisions don't really get made in the big meeting. Two or three key decision makers on the same page and the rest follow or simply refine the decision.

Not necessarily (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846054)

Dunno, it seems to me like when you look at the before and after, the sheer difference in hours wasted, would still make a difference by itself.

Before: 30 hours per week in meetings, not just for the berk calling all those meetings in a row, but for all the people dragged to them instead of having that time to manage their own projects or teams. If you add the time spent preparing the meetings, walking to/from meetings, etc, that doesn't leave many hours (if any at all) for anything else _but_ meetings.

Let's be generous and say they got... what? 2 hours per week left for actually doing whatever pays the company's bills? (Almost no company is paid just to hold meetings.) 4 hours?

After: 2 hours a week in meetings. Let's be generous and add another 2 for preparing, passing the minutes, going to/from the meetings, and it still leaves 36 hours to do actual work.

That's a 9 times increase or more.

Even if those people are just as inefficient as before, the sheer difference in hours wasted will make a huge difference.

Re:Not necessarily (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846238)

If your job is to make decisions, maybe 30 hours a week being informed and making decisions is a good way to spend your time? Particularly if say, you work for a computer manufacturer and your boss says "ok, we're going to start up a Netbook division, and you're in charge of it. get back to me in a month and let me know what your budget is, when you expect to ship your first product, and what your division's earnings is going to be for 3rd quarter 2011."
 
However, if your job is writing testing procedures for the new netbook division, they're probably wasting your time with meetings after the first few months.

If only it stayed confined to that level (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846364)

Well, if it stayed confined to the level of the CEO and upper management, I wouldn't even have anything about it. The problem is that the culture of meetings _does_ tend to extend downwards to the level of those guys programming the netbooks.

For a start each of those managers who get dragged to fill someone's 15-20 person meeting, in turn will fill their time with dragging other groups of 15-20 persons into meetings of their own. And then come the corporate structures often overimposed over the normal pyramid, so the same guy not only ends up telling his boss about what a Netbook can do, but also do the same in the architecture meetings, strategy meetings, controlling meetings, budget meetings, meetings to convince the Mordac The Preventer Of Information Services from the IT department why he needs XA transactions activated in the database, etc.

I've actually seen companies where basically even the guy who's technically just in charge of 3 other guys writing the GUI for some Web front-end, ends up spending half of his week in meetings.

Re:If only it stayed confined to that level (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846520)

Some people are redundant and have to look busy. I would imagine Tom Smykowski spends 30 hrs a week in meetings looking important, pulling an office wellfare paycheck. Office Space illustrates this exceedingly well! http://www.llakomy.com/Projects/flashvideo/office-space/tom-smykowski-s-interview-with-bobs/view [llakomy.com]
 
Wally from Dilbert is another prime example of this.

The real problem ... (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846140)

Meetings are really dick-size wars. The manager that can call the most people to a meeting obviously has the biggest dick. And if you have to attend that meeting, your dick is smaller than his.

Once you get past the need for the ego boost, you notice that meetings drop off to almost nothing. No matter what the technology used, no matter what the industry.

Re:Actually misguided (2, Insightful)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846328)

Don't forget that every single decision made in the meeting must have an associated "next action" assigned to somebody. Otherwise, there's no point in making that decision.

My action item... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846478)

Don't forget that every single decision made in the meeting must have an associated "next action" assigned to somebody. Otherwise, there's no point in making that decision.

My action item from this meeting is to machine-gun everyone who wasted my time with this crap.

--The Columbine Boys, Out on Work-Release

Re:Actually misguided (2, Insightful)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846412)

Make decisions beforehand with the key people. Most decisions don't really get made in the big meeting. Two or three key decision makers on the same page and the rest follow or simply refine the decision.

So one of your solutions to effective meetings is to... have another meeting first? If you're making decisions prior then your main meeting sounds more like a "progress report".

Re:Actually misguided (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846464)

Your recommendations presuppose a degree of professionalism on the part of the attendees. While that's a given in banking, law, finance, etc., I don't think it exists to the same degree elsewhere, particularly in IT. That's not to say such things can't be learned. Given enough time and sufficient motivation, children can be made to behave like adults, and ineffective managers can learn to manage.

Re:Actually misguided (4, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846588)

* Make decisions beforehand with the key people. Most decisions don't really get made in the big meeting. Two or three key decision makers on the same page and the rest follow or simply refine the decision.

I can't stress this one enough. Meetings are not the place to hash out decisions - especially if they're cross-departmental meetings. I've had untold meetings wasted where we finally managed to get all the head honchos together in the same room, and we spend the hour trying to come to an agreement on point 1, sub-point a.

Instead, have an individual talk with the people who either sign the pay checks or who have some sort of authority to make things happen. Come to an agreement before the meeting, and then just present the conclusions. Yes, you should still listen to objections from others in the meeting - after all, everyone's there for a reason. But you should never, ever walk have a meeting without knowing exactly who is going to say what.

If you can make this happens, meetings are short, productive, and leave people happy. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Re:Actually misguided (1)

DomNF15 (1529309) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846664)

Technology, in and of itself, will not improve meetings. Effective management improves meetings.

No. Not having meetings improves meetings :-)

To be serious though, the points you mention are good ones, I'd also like to add, invite a "bad guy" - the bad guy's role will be to kick meeting derailers in the junk :-)

Good grief (3, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845886)

Good grief, if they had 30 hours of meetings per week, and probably a few more hours walking to the next meeting and whatnot, when did they have time to do any actual work? I'm affraid that just hearing about spending 30 hours a week in meetings tops everything I've ever read in a Dilbert strip.

That gives me kind of a snarky idea, though. I've long been under the impression that most meetings (or a large part of the time allocated to them) falls basically into two categories:

- substitute for a social life (think: the boss just wants to talk to some people)

- responsibility avoidance (think: we all talked about it for hours, hence nobody is personally responsible for any given decision or lack thereof. Sorta like why they give firing squads blanks too.)

There are of course sub-categories and nuances (e.g., the crying on each other's shoulder instead of taking a decision kind of meeting, or the kind that's not just a substitute for social contact, but a one-sided occasion to brag too.) But I think that as top-leve categories, those two would account for more than half of the time wasting.

I wonder if the reduction in meeting hours just has to do with, well, if you give a lonely boss email and IRC and IM and all, he can get his socializing fix without preventing his subordinates from working in the process.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845890)

I would KILL to have a 2 hour meeting per week!

We currently have about a 5 minute whiteboard session every other day from the Manager, and are left to Execute everything as we go. We used to have a 2 hour meeting last year, about every month. Those were good times.

Man, if 30 hours a week was ever a norm, that'd be awesome! Sitting and talking about how awesome it'd be to get stuff done. I mean, they do realize that there are only 40 hours in a work week, right? Thats like 2 hours a day of actual work!

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (5, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846106)

I mean, they do realize that there are only 40 hours in a work week, right?

Can I have your job?

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846206)

Some of us really LIKE the work we do. Its the people we do it with that we don't like. If I had to do less actual work, and spend more time with the people I do the work with, I would quit.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846690)

well meetings shouldn't be about spending time with people (that kind of meeting can be done once a year or something and even be optional), meetings should only be there to actually help out the work to be done.
otherwise, its pointless. (well, most meetings are pointless if you ask me...)

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846744)

Meetings are the practical alternative to work!

Last week, I actually told someone to repeat the question as I was daydreaming. It got a laugh but I hoped, deep down, the speaker realised that long meetings are boring and non-productive. People who think that a 5,000 word speech makes them sound knowledgeable and important are deluded.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846636)

yeah, meetings are significantly worse than doing actual work... if you do not think this, then you should not be doing the job that you are doing.

Re:Bravo, Bravissimo (3, Funny)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845948)

While I laud the efforts in reducing meeting time, I am not yet convinced that the ends justify the means...

Slashdot, I ask you this: can u tolr8 this blud on ur hands?

Or you could say... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845536)

...these horrible technologies turn every hour of every day into an eternal meeting.

Re:Or you could say... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845652)

Blah, tech un-savvy media pundit fawns over yet poorly understood 'youth' activity. Those who have used computers for 40 years roll eyes upwards. An industry has arisen around breathless reporting by the techno-retrograde over every new fad, all hoping to hit discoverer gold. How this beats a conference call remains unknown.

No kidding... (4, Interesting)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846048)

When I was still working in IT, the last contract job I had, I had a micro-manager from hell. He'd never held any sort of management job before, but technically was brilliant.

He needed to be in constant contact with me throughout the entire day.

I had gone down to the server room for about 45 minutes, and came back to this IM:

"ANSWER ME!!!! YOU MUST ANSWER ME! I AM YOUR MANAGER AND NEED TO KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!" I'm not kidding. It was that obnoxious.

Never mind the fact that we all carried around cellphones and he could have easily called me if he so desperately needed to talk to me.

It turned out that, as usual, all he wanted was a "status update" on an install I was doing. Honestly, this was more of a quite common tech-to-management role switch problem, but the fact that he had IM at his disposal just made workdays damn near unbearable.

Re:Or you could say... (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846260)

Meetings are sometimes the most exhaustive part of my work day. Maybe *that's* why we all bitch about them so much - it takes work for us socially dysfunctional nerds to communicate our ideas in a socially acceptable way.

Also, the meetings that aren't intensive are a good break from the daily grind.

I can sympathize with the anti-meeting sentiment, but it's not always the case.

Re:Or you could say... (1)

outlander78 (527836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846432)

Exactly right - meetings never end, interruptions never stop, and drive-by management becomes an even easier habit to fall into. It may be tiresome, but there are real benefits to getting the right people into a room, and focusing on the problem at hand. Where chat rooms and follow-on technologies really shine is enabling these meetings over great distances.

I don't know (2, Interesting)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845572)

I've been sitting in an IRC channel with all the devs all day every day. Sounds like an all-day meeting to me, it's just more efficient.

Re:I don't know (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845914)

Especially as you can easily "opt-out" of said all-day virtual meeting. Disable IRC, IM, e-mail and turn off your mobile and you can actually get some work done.

Then again, I'm finding monthly in-person meetings per project are necessary to keep everyone updated. Video/voice-conferencing only works to a certain degree on complex projects, sometimes it's just more efficient to get everyone together.

Re:I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846480)

Especially as you can easily "opt-out" of said all-day virtual meeting. Disable IRC, IM, e-mail and turn off your mobile and you can actually get some work done.

And then fall hopelessly behind because the rest of the dev team, all indoctrinated to use IRC and only IRC as their communication method (even if you turned e-mail back on, still no word), change parts of the toolchain you're using under your feet.

When you hop back in IRC and ask what the new changes are, you get disdainful responses wondering where the hell YOU'VE been for the past two days and why you weren't monitoring all of the twenty or so IRC channels to know that in one of them, as a side topic, two guys were incrementally making complete, incompatible replacements to the tools you were just using, refuse to maintain the old stuff, and turn up their noses at you for even suggesting that perhaps finding a better way to let everyone know what's going on would help everyone in the end.

Sure. Opt-out of said all-day virtual meeting. Good plan. Where do you live, again? I hear there's going to be a job opening right in your cube or office real soon...

Re:I don't know (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845932)

Exactly, this kind of technology just allows some similarity with everyone sitting in one room - which in itself would remove much of the need for meetings (it's occasinally still more productive to get a subset of people together face to face to talk issues over). The other benefit I find with working this way over traditional meetings is that, unless the entire meeting is centred around me and what I'm doing, it's usually more productive for me to dip in and out as required and be doing other things in the meantime. In a meat-space meeting, that's not really possibly unless everyone takes laptops along, and what usually happens is I lose interest then suddenly realise when someone does ask me a question that I've not been listening for the past five minutes and have no context. With online meetings, there is a trail I can follow if necessary to find out what the question was really about, so I don't need to give 100% of my focus to the meeting. We also seem to lose at least 10 minutes out of every meeting because some people won't be there on time, or need to go pick something up from the copier, or someone's stolen the room and we have to relocate, etc - might seem small but having a room full of devs sitting around doing nothing while some manager is late back from a pub lunch can soon start to become an expensive pursuit.

Update your resumes guys. (5, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845590)

To succeed in the long term and at scale, stream-of-consciousness management must be supplemented in the following ways:

All of you using IRC and email now have experience in "stream-of-consciousness management". Don't forget or otherwise the resume scanners will pass you over and when you're in the first interview, the HR drone will say you don't have up to date skills and chuck your resume away.

30 hours (1)

alxkit (941262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845594)

so *ahem* 30 hours of talk and 10 hours of "work"? no wonder some companies can't get shit done.

More like (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846202)

so *ahem* 30 hours of talk and 10 hours of "work"? no wonder some companies can't get shit done.

Actually, for some people it's more like 30 hours of talk and 10 hours of organizing the next meeting, preparing the powerpoint slides, and walking between meetings. Some people simply need to fill their day with something, and they'll expand it to fill all that time they need to fill.

I got a better one (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845604)

How IM and SMS Are Killing the Languages All Over the World.

Re:I got a better one (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845682)

When does English get to become inflected again like all the cool languages?

Re:I got a better one (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846312)

When does English get to become inflected again like all the cool languages?

Don't you mean:

When do English get to become inflect again like all the cool language?

Re:I got a better one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846708)

Do you mean "when to do english to get to become to inflect again like all the cool language"?

Help! We're wasting our time Doing Stuff! (4, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845606)

We need to get back to the Old Ways, where we invested all of time more wisely in Talking About Doing Stuff. We fear this new fangled "work".

Re:Help! We're wasting our time Doing Stuff! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845882)

Um.. Seems that the extra hours will be productively used reading /. as all here prove.

Re:Help! We're wasting our time Doing Stuff! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846084)

We need to get back to the Old Ways, where we invested all of time more wisely in Talking About Doing Stuff. We fear this new fangled "work".

Actually, what we're doing right here is talking about the way of discussing how to talk about doing something.

Hmm, wait... No, it's posting about talking about how to talk about... fuck got lost again. It's talking about talking about talking about talking. Yeah, that's it.

Justify their Existence (5, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845608)

Thirty hours of a forty-hour workweek devoted to meetings? I'm sure managers are getting nervous at the idea you can spend two hours a week on meetings and 38 hours a week getting stuff done.

Just like I have to show that I've gotten something done for the company in order to justify my paycheck, maybe it's time for the meeting-happy managers to show that their meetings have provided value to the company.

Re:Justify their Existence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845798)

it's time for the meeting-happy managers to show that their meetings have provided value to the company.

And when are they going to do that? At another meeting?

Re:Justify their Existence (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845814)

i think we need to schedule a bi monthly meeting so we can present our progress on this. i'll order the snacks.

Re:Justify their Existence (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845992)

I'm sure managers are getting nervous at the idea you can spend two hours a week on meetings and 38 hours a week getting stuff done.

Except that 'getting stuff done' is not necessarily how they spend the other 38 hours. At a company I worked at recently, much of the remaining 38 hours was spent maneuvering for political advantage. The reason there are fewer meetings isn't necessarily because the management is more efficient, but because they're not bothering to manage. And as bad as micro-management is, every-man-for-himself doesn't work very well on most projects either.

Re:Justify their Existence (2, Insightful)

kick6 (1081615) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845994)

Thirty hours of a forty-hour workweek devoted to meetings? I'm sure managers are getting nervous at the idea you can spend two hours a week on meetings and 38 hours a week getting stuff done.

Sadly, the 40 hour work week is a failed assumption. Salaried people are expected to get their stuff done however long it takes. Which means that you're meeting 30 hours a week.............and working an additional 30.

Re:Justify their Existence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846618)

If you're that much of a pushover, it's your problem. Get a backbone and refuse. You only live once, don't squander your EXTREMELY SMALL time in this world.

Re:Justify their Existence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846010)

Haha, you're right - as a web developer, everything I do has to provide quantifiable benefit, we have analytics for pretty much every part of every project, but meetings are a big black hole that suck up everyone's time and have no measurable benefit. Maybe meetings should be more democratic, everyone gets a buzzer and if more than 50% of the people at the meeting buzz to say it's a waste of time, it automatically ends. I've sat in too many meetings with managers who like the sound of their own voices, or don't even realise that they're talking in circles or going off on tangents - all well and good if I've nothing better to do and have time to waste, but more often than not I'm sitting there thinking this is all time I'll need to make up unpaid, out of hours, to catch up with my own workload.

Re:Justify their Existence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846196)

Wow.. hear hear!

This is a *good thing* (3, Interesting)

Aurisor (932566) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845610)

I work for a very successful, young company which is run by a very young CEO. On average, I have no meetings at all. We're currently in a huge crunch right now, which means I have 3-minute check-ins at the beginning and the end of the day.

Long meetings have been the butt of jokes for as long as I can remember, and for good reason: they're a giant waste of time, especially for technical people.

This looks very much like one of those articles people will be mocking in 10 years. This really makes Forbes look like they're clinging to the 20th century...how embarrassing.

Re:This is a *good thing* (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845874)

Long meetings have been the butt of jokes for as long as I can remember, and for good reason: they're a giant waste of time, especially for technical people.

This is usually true. But I have come around to the power of meetings 'once and awhile'. Sometimes it is better to cut off the stream of IM's and emails and just stick everyone in the same room and hash it out. This does have upsides. EVERYONE is focused on the task at hand and not the other 20 things they were doing. Everyone works towards a solution. Now do this too much though and you never get anything done. Dont do it enough and you start to see the other 'micro meetings' getting hijacked for other tasks with the wrong people in them.

Balance is key. Too much is bad too little is also bad.

Re:This is a *good thing* (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846536)

Balance is key. Too much is bad too little is also bad.

You've got it. The people who call meetings really need to understand the ramifications of having a meeting - "Stop everything you're doing, and let's talk for a few hours" is something that should be done sparingly if at all.

OTOH, a few minutes here and there to make sure that the right value is being added to the organization at the right time makes sense.

What is a meeting for? (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845628)

Ostensibly you hold meetings to do three things

1) Share current status
2) Discuss ideas
3) Plan

A good manager has all these worked out beforehand, and uses this preparation to lead the meeting effectively and efficiently.

If you are spending hours and hours in meetings with your team, something is terribly wrong.

Re:What is a meeting for? (2, Informative)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846134)

There are better tools than meetings to do 1, and maybe even 2.

Re:What is a meeting for? (1)

lwriemen (763666) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846252)

I agree. DeMarco (and Lister?) stated that the "status" meeting is often a "status affirmation" meeting where the manager is proving they have the power to waste your time.

A good manager doesn't need to. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846258)

If all of those are worked out ahead of time, then there shouldn't be a need for a meeting for that information to be communicated.

The only REAL need for a meeting is during a crisis that you have NOT prepared for.

Meetingless management (1)

GlL (618007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845630)

A little tear squeezed from the corner of my eye and I thought "Has heaven indeed begun to poke its head through into Earth?" Then I read the article and realized that the meetings have gone from as little as 30 hours a week to as long as the entire work week, just one long virtual meeting.
"Ahh, Hell! You sneaky bum, disguising yourself as heaven again only to suck in the unwary."

Re:Meetingless management (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845754)

Then I read the article and realized that the meetings have gone from as little as 30 hours a week to as long as the entire work week, just one long virtual meeting.

Where the hell do you people work that you spend that much time in meetings? I've been in the military, and worked as a contractor with meeting-loving, long-rambling-discussion-having government employees, and I doubt I've ever spent more than 20 hours in a single week in meetings. And those weeks were extremely rare--they maybe happened once or twice per year.

Have I just luckily dodged the horriffic work environments that exist out there, or are you people just embellishing your stories?

Spec Mem To Slashd (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845650)

cant make mtg tday becuz Im bsy wrting massve btnet to
tke over the big Ggle and Aple monoplyeez on intnt surch &
iApple_Fill_In_The_Blank.

Az far az im concrned, u can cncel ALL mtngs now.

JUNK the iFAD [youtube.com] .

Yours In Novosibirsk,
Kilgore T.

Problem when being sued? (1)

wbackner (1417725) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845668)

I wonder if using chat and email instead of meetings will lead to more issues when companies are sued. It is a lot easier to deny knowing about some product defect if it is just talked about in a meeting. However, if there are chat or email records then the company is more likely to get into trouble. It depends on what sort of logs they keep and how often everything is erased.

Re:Problem when being sued? (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845918)

In the last two companies that I have worked, it has become a policy to never, ever, retain log IMs. This is so that if we were ever sued, we had more deniability, because there were less records. If your IM client doesn't log the messages, then you don't need to go looking for them.

Re:Problem when being sued? (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846126)

Same thing applies to meetings actually. If you're doing things properly the meeting will have an agenda and will be minuted; these things should be filled away somewhere and can certainly be subpoenaed.

It all comes down to the process you're following and your record-keeping practices, but in general anything important that's decided should be recorded somewhere to guard against people forgetting or disagreeing.

Re:Problem when being sued? (1)

JackSpratts (660957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846530)

minutes can be extremely broad outlines of little specificity, along the lines of "gas peddles brought up, discussion ensued" ending with action taken, if any. dangerous in court? perhaps, but ambiguous enough to sidestep and for that reason not so hot for dispute resolutions. you may be thinking of transcripts, typed recordings of everything said at a meeting, usually backed up with video or audio recordings, which logged IMs would indeed be like. they are especially dangerous in opposing counsels' hands.

Please, oh please (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845756)

Would someone please tell my boss about this?

The meetings will continue... (4, Funny)

Lendrick (314723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845762)

...until morale improves.

Good news & Bad news (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31845764)

Good news: Fewer and shorter meetings.
Bad news: Now every time you're IM'd by your manager it is a meeting.
Good news: Everyone can be 'in the loop' all of the time
Bad news: It's even easier to keep people out of the loop
Good news: Everything is less formal -- no more meeting minutes or meeting rules
Bad news: Now every single scrap of paper and electronic barf that crosses your desk must be recorded and filed.
Good news: With laptops and smart phones you can have a 'meeting' at any time day or night ti fit your schedule
Bad news: Your manager does not know or care about your schedule -- just his own.

Good luck with that.

Re:Good news & Bad news (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846316)

Bad news: Now every single scrap of paper and electronic barf that crosses your desk must be recorded and filed.

I'd say this is the one serious drawback. For the most part we have moved over to using IM to gut perhaps 60% of our meetings, but those IMs have segmented into:

-Company Client: No man's land of IMs, every word is saved internally, completely public and only the top dogs even touch it. Every word you type is an invitation for termination and hitting enter is like signing a mortgage.

-Pidgin: Logs are shared locally, unless you are an idiot and save it on a share; often used for poisioning your enemies well, spreading misinformation via modified logs, etc. Oddly enough it gets used more than anything else though the quality varies from dept to dept.

-GMail chat: No local records, completely off the radar and I have no idea how much work gets done there.

Pro-meeting folks just want CYA or at least a feeling of total control. For everyone else it is a tool. Regardless, I'd rather just answer an IM than put the effort into getting 8 or 9 people in the same place at the same time.

I've always told my staff... (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845768)

...there is no such thing as a "productive" meeting.

However, I'm not sure I can see a meeting where the meeting notes go somethng like: :)

Doing well.

LOL

Should we do lunch?

Y

OK, what next?

Project A

HTH!

re Get off my lawn! (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845826)

Damn youngsters!

Pray tell me, where are we now going to get our free donuts?

Jeez, get off my lawn!

This'd be my boss's worst nightmare (4, Funny)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845870)

Man, two hours a week isn't nearly enough time for the micromanagement, pontification, self-promotion, idle chatter and general dumbfuckery that has become the mainstay of my job -- I can't see anyone in management in any serious-size company (where the most important job qualification for middle management is, of course, meetings) going for this.

My God, can you just imagine having eight hours to sink into work, unbroken by pointless meetings? Being able to concentrate on a task rather than sit in some soul-crushing little room with fluorescent lighting just to realize that your boss brought you in just so he'd have people sitting there to look impressive to some other department? Getting things done rather than listen to your coworkers discuss the specifics of your job even though they're not vaguely qualified to do so?

It'd be glorious.

Re:This'd be my boss's worst nightmare (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846020)

Oh God! You sound like you have one of those managers that gets off on acting like a manager. Meaning, he likes the self important BS like meetings to pump up his pathetic ego. So instead of being a manager and clearing the way for you guys to actually do your jobs, he's wasting your time so that he appears to be a manager.

I had one like that years ago. He was a new supervisor on track to management - suit pants, button down shirt - no tie, tasseled shoes, drank whatever Kool-Aid that was offered by upper management, took every "leadership" and "time management" class offered, etc....

Re:This'd be my boss's worst nightmare (1)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846116)

Worse: your boss drags you into a pointless meeting where you have no input to impress a CLIENT - and you know if you lunge across the table and plunge that letter opener into the jugular of the yammering sales rep your boss will want to have a meeting about THAT. (On the other hand, of the client likes seeing the sales rep spurt blood you could get a promotion - after the obligatory meeting, of course.)

Corporate Instant Message, Aging Management (2, Insightful)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845894)

It is hilarious/annoying as hell when you get an older "C" level executive who uses the corporate IM like this:
Bossman: Are you there?
Me: yes
*phone rings*

I usually answer their questions, which are always about *impossible to say verbally* statistics within the IM window, even while they are talking on the phone... Kind of as a way to Passive-Aggressively say "hey you know all that licensing money you pay to Microsoft for this nice IM solution? it would work better than the phone if you would just use it.

Re:Corporate Instant Message, Aging Management (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846070)

phone has less of an audit trail

Re:Corporate Instant Message, Aging Management (2, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846286)

which is code for "calls me all the damn time to ask the same question over and over again"

Re:Corporate Instant Message, Aging Management (1)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846632)

i'm getting that even from 30-ish ppl ;)

On the other end, they usually type slowly compared to your average slashdot reader, so even if spoken language is kind of more messy than clear black and white text, especially in the technical world, we end up resolving stuff probably faster over the phone.

Re:Corporate Instant Message, Aging Management (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846660)

Seriously, somebody would pay Microsoft for an IM solution?

Truly, the modern equivalent of "nobody got fired for buying IBM" (subtext: even if the IBM product is lousy, even if there are others which are both substantially cheaper and better).

Treat meetings like bugs . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31845976)

... a lot of bugs in a project, indicate that something ain't quite right with the project. Folks scramble to figure out what needs to be done to have less bugs. When your level of bugs go down, you got your project right again.

A lot of meetings in a project, also indicate that something ain't quite right. Instead of scheduling more meetings, folks should try to figure out why they think they need so many meetings.

Just like development is proud to say, "Hey, we have less bugs!", management should be proud to say "We have less meetings!"

Instead, when an an executive asks, "Something ain't right with your project, what y'all doin' 'bout it?"

The project manager answers, "I've scheduled a meeting with them, and a meeting with the other guys, then a meeting to talk to them foreign folks, about what 'them' and 'the other guys' think . . . ", etc.

A high number of meetings in a project should be considered a negative metric.

30 hours/week? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846014)

With all those meetings, how do you get any work done? I'm glad it's gone down!

die meetings, die (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846046)

Informal meetings are great. Formal meetings should die. They waste time that could be saved by things like pre-recorded webinar thingies.

Youth? You sure? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846058)

Dr. Farnsworth: Good news everyone, I've eliminated the meeting... it only took a millennium for it to die of old age, that and your next paychecks. But long story short: naptime is over!
Hermes: Noooooooooooooooooooooo!
Fry: [wakes up] Huh, what happend?
Leela: They're trying to take away our benefits, we have to unionize to save the meeting!

And when meetings were a good thing ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846112)

you gather numerous people in a room, either all listen and scribble while one is talking, or more than one talk in a chaos. you cant do any other work during that time, you cant take a piss, you cant eat, you cant even think properly.

online meetings are a blessing. you can still do actual work during online meetings. actually best is online chat. you dont need to talk, or you dont need to watch. people dont have to listen. you can type long blocks of text, and anyone can take their time while reading and digesting, which is something they cant do if you do it by talking. also, in most cases, telling something by voice takes longer time than typing it.

A happy medium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31846122)

I have had the pleasure of working on a technical team only to attend meetings for more than half the week and lose lots of valuable time that could be spent on real work. This was not very good for moral as I found myself feeling like i was not accomplishing enough and making as much progress on my work as i wanted to.

I have also recently(last 2 years) had the pleasure of working on a technical team where client facing meetings are pretty much the only meetings I have, and they are short and far between. Since this role is a remote one, I am never in communication with my management, aside from a few emails here and there. In fact, last year I only spoke to my manager 3 times on the phone, and have yet to meet him.

In my opinion, there has to be a happy medium. Face to face time is important in the workplace. It creates a link between the person doing to work and the people requesting the work. While i agree that most meetings should be kept to a minimum, there are definitely some types of meetings such as a weekly one on one with ones manager(maybe 15 minutes or so) and team meetings(maybe 30-60 minutes a few times a month) that make alot of sense to keep active and on-going. When people that work together lose a personal connection with their teammates it tends to make them less likely to go that extra step or two to help each other out. It gets even worse when it is a lack of connection between a boss and an employee.

The best example i can give to represent this disconnection between an employee and his boss(again, only talked on phone with mine 3 times last year and so far once this year) is that i recently had to have a small surgery done and despite numerous emails, preparations for time off, etc. My boss was actually surprised after my surgery when i was on my leave. It had never registered with him, even though one of those phone calls we had contained a 5 minute conversation about this very surgery and the time i would need to be out of the office following it. When there is no connection(good or bad) it becomes difficult for people to give a crap about and remember whats happening in the lives of their coworkers and thus makes the team as a whole suffer.

Using IRC/IM would do alot to bridge the gaps in my situation, as it would provide a forum for data to flow more freely. team members comments are not only helpful in seeing things in a different light, but help re-inforce what was actually said. I just think that the business world needs to remember that an extreme in any one direction is never the best solution. Dropping meetings from the schedule is great in most cases, but some personal communication face to face or at least via phone should be maintained on a regular basis so that everything keeps running smooth.

I dislike meetings (1)

gnuguru2k (910038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846162)

how about u?

Re:I dislike meetings (1)

kangsterizer (1698322) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846628)

i have one in 2 weeks, its 2h30 away from my location, and i have to actually sleep there the day before and stay the next day, i bet i'm back at like 10pm.

during the meeting i will have learned nothing that i don't already know.

what was the question again? oh yeah, meetings suck.

New Title (3, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846184)

Perhaps a better article title would be "How Meetings and those Who Like them are Killing Productivity".

no chairs at meetings (4, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846324)

Best idea from Extreme Programming

In schools, at least mine, meetings suck much less (1)

TromboonDotPy (861822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846404)

I'm a teacher in a public high school with (we think) better than average utilization of our information tech, at least on the teacher's desk. We take a LOT less meetings than 5 years ago, and the meetings we have are MUCH more abstract, more based on principles, overviews of our goals, and a bit of cheerleading, and SHORTER than back in the day. I totally commend my bosses for their tech-awareness, and their use of meeting times only for things that can't easily be said in email, or a video.

The exceptions are sort of interesting. The state mandated test regime requires a lengthy, plodding, punitive-feeling training session. Technology training. also a state mandate, is required to be administered by means of face-time. Basically, the theater of authority seems to require face-time: "I can make you show up and listen to me."

Perhaps this is what is really going on in meetings in the private sector, as well?

IM sucks ... so 90s ... no longer used here ... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846446)

Here we used to use IM internally, until it was ruined. We generally, no longer use IM.

Other folks figured out they can try to skip procedures by using IM. You know all those procedures? F those procedures we'll just send an IM to some random person, that's the new procedure.

A lot of complaining about our work schedules in a 24x7 department. Why, I never reported it because so-and-so was on vacation so I couldn't IM him. What about the three guys sitting there doing nothing? Well, they're not in my buddy list.

"Phone Book" problems. People whom transfer to other depts but keep their name getting IMs to work their old job.

Also internal scheduling became intolerable. IM worked OK for folks whom only do one task all day every day. Special projects became impossible when other individuals started managing our incoming workload.

Documentation becomes impossible. Stuff that belongs in a wiki procedure is just IMed by those too lazy to edit. Stuff that belongs on the calendar is just IMed by folks too lazy to use outlook. Stuff that belongs in a ticket is just IMed by those too lazy to use RT. The lazy people made life hell on the non-lazy people.

Collaboration? Impossible. You can email any arbitrary group of folks. IM? In any group of three workers, they'll try to cut and paste each other, but fail.

Then there's the freaks. Such a broad spectrum of responsiveness. Some folks treat it like an email, as long as they reply by the end of the day, its all good. Then there's the lunatics whom expect a response within 1 second or else you're snubbing them, obviously the universe revolves around them and how dare you imply it doesn't, by not dropping everything to reply to their IM (lots of that type in lower level mgmt)

Finally no audit trail. I IMed someone whom never did what I asked. Turns out that's someone at a meeting, away from desk, whatever. Just lost in the aether.

After enough complaints, each individual got rid of it as their threshold was reached. Very few people indeed still use IM where I work.

IM kills meetings too (2, Interesting)

adenied (120700) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846474)

By the headline I thought this might be about people using IM during meetings killing things. I tend to agree that having multi-hour meetings usually is pretty useless. If you really have that much information that needs to be shared chances are no one in your audience can absorb it all in a long tedious non-interactive meeting.

OTOH, I hope people don't try to take this as "we can do everything without face to face interaction!" This is also problematic. I work with a number of people who live far away and only come into the office every few weeks. We work pretty well over the interwebs but the couple days we get for face to face interaction is invaluable.

Back to my first thought, when you do have to be in a meeting and bring a laptop, just don't bury yourself in IMing with other people, checking e-mail, etc. It's distracting and I really hate it when someone has to repeat a question because someone was reading the latest Slashdot headlines. It's a level of inconsiderateness that shouldn't be found in a professional environment. That said, if I called a meeting and it seems useless to you, tell me!

Me, I turn it all off. (3, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31846526)

For at least three hours a day, I try to turn off my IM client and ignore my email. If I don't, I am not able to get enough focused effort on any one task in order to get things done.

The problem with replacing face-to-face with IMs and emails is that you turn what should be a few short meetings into long, drawn-out discussions that can continue pulling attention away for hours.

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