Working on now: recurring meetings, Mosaic

I love blogging. Not only is it fun, it’s a never ending source of sources!

I’m working on a few things right now that I’d love to chat with people about. First, recurring meetings. They’re a staple of life in many offices. If it’s Monday at 10 a.m., you must be having a staff meeting. But there are different schools of thought about this. They have their passionate defenders (i.e. the managers who schedule them). They can also be big time wasters, since they don’t have to earn their place on your calendar. What do you think? Have you ever killed a recurring meeting? How did it go? Or, perhaps, have you instituted one?

Second, I’ve produced a rough draft of my next book, Mosaic, but I’d like to freshen it up with some new interviews. So, if you thought about keeping a time log for me as part of it (see the criteria here) but didn’t, yet would like to share any time management challenges or strategies using your real name, I’d love to talk with you. I’m particularly interested in strategies for making family time fun and home life easier, but I’ll take career strategies or me time strategies too. (I don’t have to use your employer’s name — just what industry you’re in).

As always (or if you’d like to see something covered here) you can email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com. Now off for another long weekend — I’ll be back to blogging next Tuesday or so!



17 thoughts on “Working on now: recurring meetings, Mosaic

  1. I became a convert to and defender of the standing meeting after I saw what happened in an office that didn’t have them. The standing meeting provided several essential functions that could not be met by ad hoc meetings:
    1. A hard deadline for procrastinators.
    2. A reminder for the forgetful.
    3. A neutral environment for confrontation and conflict resolution.

    People are always going to procrastinate, forget, and passive-aggressively avoid confronting difficult issues or people–it’s just human nature. But a standing meeting that everyone–including the boss–has to show up at without being asked helps keep those kinds problems from festering for weeks to months without being addressed.

    1. I agree with Karen, I actually do much better when I have my weekly standing meetings with my mentor and my research team—it keeps those projects fresh on our minds, and we have a built-in deadline for completing tasks that could be procrastinated. That being said, the meetings should be focused—should only include absolutely essential personnel, and can and should be canceled if there really isn’t anything on the agenda.

  2. I’ve instituted and killed more standing meetings than I can count… I’d be happy to talk to you about why I schedule them and why I kill them. They have their uses in many different types of project management, but you do have to use them well and kill them when they have outlived their purpose. If you think I’d have anything to add to your Mosaic project at this point, I could talk about that, too. Real name and all! Email me if you want to set something up.

  3. I have a bimonthly two-hour-long management meeting that expands to fill the two hours, no matter how much or little business there actually is. What I would be in favour of is a 20-minute weekly check-in.

  4. I instituted a standing meeting when I was the lead physician in a three-physician practice. I realized that staff was approaching me at random times with questions about workflow and other issues and I was giving them off-the-cuff answers, because I was always in th middle of something. That caused a variety of problems (predictably). Or they didn’t ask, because I was busy, which caused different and still predictable problems. The standing meeting was a weekly lunch. The docs bought lunch for everyone, we had a little bit of social time, and everyone knew there would be a chance to bring things to the table. I, in turn, was able to respond in more thoughtful and skilled manner because that was my only responsibility at that time. All three of us had the chance to contribute to the process. MUCH better.

    The usual problem with meetings – standing or not – is that they are badly managed. Meetings have to start, move through a recognizable agenda, and they have to end. All three parts need to be clearly delineated. The agenda should include an agreement or clear communication about the goal of each discussion. Are you making this decision here? Are we providing information for the person who will make the decision? How will the decision be made and communicated? What’s the next step? The facilitator needs to be able and willing to move discussion forward when it’s circular and manage conflict when (not if) it appears.

    I could go on. At length 🙂

    1. One more thing: it helps to be willing to cancel a single iteration of a standing meeting when there’s nothing on the agenda for that session. That way you don’t waste everyone’s time, and you can reconvene next time when there’s activity.

  5. Cancelling when there’s nothing on the agenda sounds like a good idea in principle, but who decides when there’s nothing on the agenda? I’ve seen that used a number of times as a cover for “I think I’m too busy and important to meet with these people this week so I’m going to create a situation where they feel peer pressure say they have nothing to put on the agenda so I can cancel without guilt.”

    1. Ugh. That feels icky. If the work atmosphere and culture is that toxic, the meeting’s not the problem.

      1. Sorry, I probably made that sound too cold and calculating. What I meant was that I’ve seen these meetings cancelled because the manager feels too busy and overwhelmed. She then goes around asking everyone if they could please, please, please cancel staff meeting, “unless you have something really urgent or important you want to talk about.” And when you are asked that question you are not going to say, “actually, no, we really need to have staff meeting” because there is peer pressure not to be the one standing in the way of canceling it. You might not even remember what’s on the agenda because you weren’t thinking about it right then when she came into the office and asked if she could cancel. Either way, you are going to say that there is “nothing” on the agenda whether there is or not. This type of manager doesn’t actually have bad intentions. In fact, she’s probably sorry she cancelled it, and she really doesn’t intend for it to happen again–until it does, the next week, when the next crisis du jour arises.

        1. Your comment made me think. And this DOES happen, even in very collegiate and well-meaning environments. In fact, I think I’ve been guilty of it. Off to re-schedule our project meeting for this week…

  6. I have standing meetings with my staff mostly to give us a secured time on the calendar to come together as a team and make sure we’re all on track for taking care of our students (we work at a University). One thing that’s important to me is that we’ve blocked off an hour and half for the meeting, but I ALWAYS try to keep it to 30 minutes if possible. It’s not always (depending on the season), but if we can it gives people an hour of blocked off time that they have to work on projects.

    1. @Laura – ooh, I like that. It’s like everyone gets a freebie hour! So much better than going the opposite direction.

  7. I’m in favour of recurring meetings, for reasons others have mentioned. What I can’t bear is when these are scheduled in the morning. Morning hours are worth double afternoon hours! When I was part of senior management (ha!) we had a meeting every Monday morning 9:30 – 11. Why not Friday 3:30 – 5? When I’m in charge, they’re in the afternoon.

    1. I agree! I definitely prefer mid-afternoon meetings – but then I’m an extrovert and find talking to people energising.

    2. @Alison- agreed! Morning is prime real estate for deep thinking. Since meetings tend to happen once they’re scheduled, they don’t require internal motivation. Best to leave the time of day when people have the most willpower for that focused work.

      1. I agree very much with keeping meetings as short as possible–maybe even just a check in. And having focused agendas and good management is essential too, otherwise they really are a waste of time, recurring or not. But I don’t really understand the statement that meetings don’t require internal motivation. To keep a meeting focused and productive requires plenty of that.

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