Bob Goldman

I want to have a meeting to discuss the sad state of meetings.

Every time some business know-it-all decides to write-it-all, the subject of meetings comes up. Apparently, no one likes meetings. No one is satisfied with the ideas that are generated in meetings. No one likes the decisions made in meetings. Let's face it. Meetings are the red-headed stepchild of business today. And I'm sure if we could get a bunch of red-headed stepchildren together for a meeting, they'd dump on meetings, too.

Mike Richardson, the author of "Wheel$pin: The Agile Executive's Manifesto: Accelerate Your Growth, Leverage Your Value, Beat Your Competition," is the latest meeting-basher to make my meeting on meetings agenda. While I might want to suggest to Richardson that a title so long it requires two colons is probably not the most agile way to attract readers, I do commend him for having some specific tips for "developing agile meetings with traction."

Of course, you and I won't agree with many of author Richardson's tips, but that's because we go into meetings with a different set of goals. He wants to put an end to meetings "where executives and workers are bogged down with burdensome systems, procedures and time-wasting meetings stuck in minutiae." We love being bogged. We want more meetings that go on endlessly and accomplish nothing. Because when we're in a meeting, we don't have to do any work. And if the meeting accomplishes nothing, we won't have to change any of our time-tested techniques for avoiding work. Best of all, we get all these benefits for just sitting around a conference table, listening to a bunch of bozos bloviate about their dumb ideas. And if we're lucky, we get donuts!

"Set the mood" is one of Richardson's top tips. "Set the tone for the energy level by playing a video or music," he says. "You can tell a story, read a quotation, or be unpredictable and create a surprise factor." Personally, I have no problem with these suggestions. I'm sure everyone in your company loves a good story. Considering the mental age of your executives, "Goodnight Moon" could work very well. You might also get a quotation from the page where the narrator says, "Good-night spreadsheet. Good-night raises." As for the "surprise factor," your manager might say something halfway intelligent. That will shock everyone.

"Spark creativity," is another suggestion, but that's not easy to do. Richardson's idea is for the leader to "frame the purpose of the meeting as a question," since "questions get the human brain thinking more quickly." He might be right here, and I have the perfect question -- "Who wants to order pizza?"


Bob Goldman

Bob Goldman is a business humor writer.

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