The Deadly Cycle of Meetingitis.

Consider this little step-sheet.

  1. Q:What do managers do when they're stressed?
    • A:They call a meeting.
  2. Q:What gets managers stressed out?
    • A:When projects are not making progress.
  3. Q:When do projects fail to make progress?
    • A:When people spend too much time in meetings.

Thus we have the rise of meetingitis -- a deadly malady that has struck down many otherwise healthy projects.

Once the disease has set in, the prognosis is grim.

The only aproach is to prevent the syndrome before it develops.

How do you prevent meetingitis?

Many people foolishly think that meetingitis is caused by 'too many meetings.'

But look closely at the steps above and you'll recognise the root cause is stressed out managers

Picture this futile attempt at preventing the syndrome:

Jack is a busy coder trying to implement his code.

He says to the manager: "I don't want to go to the next meeting. I'm not making enough progress, so I'm not gonna attend your stupid meeting."

What happens next?

Jack may get out of that particular meeting. But what is the larger effect? will the manager become more or less stressed? More stressed of course (rhetorical question) and what happens then? The manager, now in a state of complete freakout, calls extra meetings: status meetings, emergency meetings, all-hands-meetings, crisis talks, war-rooms, action-squad meetings and before you know it the meetingitis has reached its final stages: the manager decides to form a committee.

The only approach that can possibly work: deal with the stress itself. Put the manager at ease.

Communicate more, in order to meet less. Be proactive in your communication. Don't wait for them to call a meeting. Tell them what's going on. Produce regular reports. Don't "promise" to produce regular reports -- just produce them. Let them listen in on some of your day to day chatter. If you have daily standups, bring the manager in. Stop baffling them with technical mumbo jumbo. Feed them edible slices of information. Walk them through it in bite-sized chunks. Give them documentation tasks to keep them feeling important. Give them communication tasks. Draw pictures for them to stick on the wall of their office. Give them some kind of flashy management information portal that has interactive charts (you don't need to hook them up to any real data -- a random number generator ought to do it). Or maybe there's a better way?

What do you do?

How do you prevent meetingitis?


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