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egg timer meeting


WE all know that managers spend their whole time in meetings, leaving others to do the hard graft.

Apparently, the average US boss spends 450-500 hours a year in meetings!

Many enjoy what for others seems meaningless and time-wasting. One Spinnaker contact remembers one of her bosses, who refused to let meetings last for more than half an hour, during which participants were not allowed to sit down. This concentrated the mind wonderfully, and prevented unnecessary waffling by time wasters or those who just couldn’t resist the chance to tell everyone how brilliant they were.

According to Charlie Hawkins, who has written a book called Make Meetings Matter, getting the best out of them is the key to the game. Attention needs to be paid to such issues as what the purpose of the meeting is (anyone working in a large business will know that this is not always obvious), and what the preferred outcome of the meeting might be.

Hawkins mentions the committee syndrome by which the camel is a beast that was originally supposed to be a horse, but was designed by committee. A similar story was told by one of Spinnaker’s contributors who remembers her father speaking of a tank, designed by a committee of war ministry types, in which the engine could not be installed because it was too big for the space available.

Other discussions include that of the so-called meeting “hostage”, namely those poor souls trapped in a meeting they feel they shouldn’t be attending. We can all relate to that.

Avoidance of meetings is also tackled. Perhaps submitting a learned paper, complete with bullet points, action plans and the like, will mean you can avoid the meeting altogether. Pressure of work is also a good wheeze when attempting to postpone the inevitable.

No refreshments or breaks are one way of stopping prolonged meetings. We are reminded of the cartoon strip Asterix, which maintained that the Romans conquered Britain because they only waged war at tea time and at weekends. A lesson to us all.

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