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Achieving results by 'putting the fear of a meeting' into people

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  • Achieving results by 'putting the fear of a meeting' into people

    I work in the systems department of a large company. I've encountered an interesting trend in my workplace lately and I wonder if others who work in a similar situation have encountered anything similar at one point or another.

    Once in a while our testing environments break because of unexpected configuration changes and I have to engage analysts from other areas to find out what's going on and fix it. Usually it starts with an e-mail or a request (in our service-management tool). The request often bounces around to several groups before ending up back where it started and the problem still exists.

    At this point, I'm often pretty frustrated. I absolutely hate tracking down environment problems and getting the right people to take ownership. But I think I've found the secret weapon to these situations. I threaten to schedule working meetings with everyone who has touched the request and anyone else who could hold the key to the answer.

    The moment I do that a flurry of work starts to happen. Deeper analysis and research starts to happen. E-mails and IMs go flying as people start working desperately to avoid a meeting. The vast majority of the time the problem is fixed without a meeting but in the end the people spend hours resolving the problem from their desks using e-mail and IM. If they had all gotten together in a conference room they most likely would have resolved it in under an hour.

    People simply don't want to meet face-to-face even when the problem would be solved in less time with less effort.

    Has anyone else noticed this behavior in their corporate cultures?

  • #2
    Not here! In my bit of the UK National Health Service we end up with far too many meetings, even if the problem could have been solved by e-mail

    R.

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    • #3
      Focus is a motivator!

      When we have an incident or outage, daily meetings are the norm. Conference calls, no one is co-located, but each groups reports status - keeps people focused and lets others know the status. Don't forget to get the stakeholders into these meetings. The techies support the BUSINESS.

      Originally posted by ellobogrande View Post
      I work in the systems department of a large company. I've encountered an interesting trend in my workplace lately and I wonder if others who work in a similar situation have encountered anything similar at one point or another.

      Once in a while our testing environments break because of unexpected configuration changes and I have to engage analysts from other areas to find out what's going on and fix it. Usually it starts with an e-mail or a request (in our service-management tool). The request often bounces around to several groups before ending up back where it started and the problem still exists.

      At this point, I'm often pretty frustrated. I absolutely hate tracking down environment problems and getting the right people to take ownership. But I think I've found the secret weapon to these situations. I threaten to schedule working meetings with everyone who has touched the request and anyone else who could hold the key to the answer.

      The moment I do that a flurry of work starts to happen. Deeper analysis and research starts to happen. E-mails and IMs go flying as people start working desperately to avoid a meeting. The vast majority of the time the problem is fixed without a meeting but in the end the people spend hours resolving the problem from their desks using e-mail and IM. If they had all gotten together in a conference room they most likely would have resolved it in under an hour.

      People simply don't want to meet face-to-face even when the problem would be solved in less time with less effort.

      Has anyone else noticed this behavior in their corporate cultures?

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't think its so much that there is a fear of meetings as much as a tangible deadlines when people will be held accountable for something.

        In my corporate culture one big frustration is interruptions. I don't know if people are averse to email or find it noneffective but a surefire way of getting attention is to walk in and ask a question.

        Comment


        • #5
          You're guessing that it's fear of meetings and not wanting meetings, but it might
          not be! For example, it could be that the people enjoy meetings and especially
          enjoy them when they're able to show off what great stuff they've done about
          the thing the meeting is about.

          Here's a strategy you might consider: when a situation like this comes up,
          don't start with email. Start by calling a meeting almost immediately:
          announce that there'll be a brief 15-minute preliminary meeting in half
          an hour, or just start a conference phone call and unexpectedly call people
          up, keeping an informal tone ("we just wanted to include you in this call"),
          or start talking to a couple of people about it at coffee break, or walk into
          somebody's office and say you're about to go and look for a third person
          to see if they can solve this and ask them if they'll come with you, or
          announce a short meeting for this afternoon, etc. Try to make it clear
          that people aren't expected to solve anything before this first meeting;
          and also schedule a second meeting for a day or two later, (calling that
          "the meeting", like a real normal meeting; this first one is just
          preliminary) hoping that people will solve things either during the first
          meeting or in the interval between the two.

          The second meeting can
          be cancelled if the thing gets solved ... or maybe it's better to hold the
          second meeting anyway and just use it to let people show off and congratulate
          people on what they did and ask what we can learn about this for
          adjusting procedures and for preventing and solving problems in future.
          Cancelling the second meeting could be a mistake -- then future meetings
          could be less effective. Depending on exactly how people actually
          feel about meetings.

          I enjoy meetings (sometimes) and tend to get more stuff done on
          the project the meeting is about, shortly before the meeting
          and sometimes also shortly afterwards.

          Are you sure it would be faster to do it at a meeting? Remember, the
          meeting takes up everybody's time at once. It might take less
          elapsed time but more of each person's individual time.

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