Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why People Dislike Meetings

Dear All,

In trying to understand the concepts and psychology of participants at meetings, i came up with the article below. Kindly give me your comments on its validity or otherwise:

Reasons why people dislike or resist meetings
by: Victor P. K. Mensah

Despite all the benefits that may accrue to attendees, many people do not see the value they get from meetings. A lot of people still see meetings as a waste of time and energy. The following points buttress such feelings:

The meeting is held for the wrong reason: Many managers and convenors are quick to call meetings for the wrong reasons. If you call a meetings to discuss an issue for which that meeting has no power to discuss, it will be unfruitful. Some will convene meetings just because they feel bored or lonely. This must be guarded against since people will be disinterested in attending genuine meetings in future.

There is lack of preparation: When major meetings are called at short notice, what happens is normally disastrous. No one has read the agenda. Some may not have even read the agenda, much more getting information on the topics. There is evidently a resultant waste of time, energy and morale. Allow time for preparation and encourage participants to prepare adequately. Sometimes guiding notes (or an aide memoir)

The goal of the meeting is unclear: The agenda is the most powerful directional document prior to a meeting. If there is no clearly stated agenda/goal/objective for the meeting, it is not worth holding.

There is poor leadership: this is a clear follow-up on point 3 above. The meeting can have a clearly stated agenda, but like a ship on the high seas, it takes good leadership to ensure that it steers the designed course. Primary leadership of a meeting lies in the chairperson. In a conference with several moderators/chairs (who are the leaders of the several meetings within the conference), the conference manager is a critical leader in the success of the meeting.

There is lack of proper control: Similar to point 4 above, there is the need for proper control. If a meeting is unruly, several participants will lose interest. Ensuring proper control is a function of both the leadership and followers or meeting participants. Participants will have to respect the authority of the chair/moderator/facilitator/event manager, and the standing orders of the meeting. This is the only way the meeting or conference will be successfully controlled.

Lack of commitment: Sometimes, some participants are not really committed to the outcomes of the meeting they are attending. They may have been coerced to attend or that they are attending with their own hidden agenda. If uncommitted participants are allowed to have their way or derail the gains of the larger meeting, the committed members will loose interest in further attending meetings. Leadership and control is the key to sustaining interest in this case.

The meeting is poorly timed: Sometimes the times for meetings are scheduled poorly, mainly conflicting with other scheduled activities of several participants. While it will be difficult to arrive at a time suitable for ALL participants, the timing should be favourable to the majority. Sometimes if the dates and times are set well ahead of meeting, compromises can be made by affected participants. Poor time management has been an age old problem for many meetings. Spending too much time discussing simple or basic issues which could have been settled quite quickly with a vote or by other means. To ensure a re-generation of interest in disinterested parties due to bad time management, the following id recommended:
  • All meeting should have both start time and end time
  • Meetings should state time allocated for discussions on item by item on the agenda
  • The standing orders should be clear about times allocated for contributions and statements
  • Several decision finalising means such as voting, acclamations and ruling should be used to cut long discussions short
  • If a decision cannot be reached easily within the time frame, referrals to committees is recommended.
  • Time allocations should be followed as strictly as possible.
Recommendations of the meeting are ignored: If an organisation empowers a committee or meeting to look into a matter and make recommendations, their functions, independence and efforts should be respected and rewarded. If the authorising body consistently refuses to accept or implement their recommendations, members will eventually loose interest in attending meeting and doing effective work.

The wrong people are present: The wrong people include disinterested parties, participants with hidden agenda and people who simply have no business attending that meeting for several reasons. They may have not even read the agenda or have not idea what is been discussed, neither are they even ready to try to comprehend and contribute to discussions.

Inconclusive discussions: If the meeting consistently leaves discussions “hanging” without conclusions, participants will eventually loose interest in attending those meeting again. Leadership is important in ensuring that this doesn’t happen.

There is apparent domination by few people or a person: No body is interested in attending undemocratic meetings. One critical value of meetings is the participation of all. The chairperson should endeavour to spread the opportunities to make contributions on the floor to all. One main negative phenomenon is when the chair is the dominant participant.

Poor environment, lots of distractions: Poor ventilation; too much physical noise; pillars in the middle of the room distracting the view of those in the back; unrestricted movements by people in the room and out of the room; low audibility; speakers which are too laud; poor lighting; uncomfortable seats; poor weather management, etc, can become real distracters.

There is the presence of manipulations: There is the need for contributions and participation in a free, in-domineering environment and manipulation.

Lack of follow-through: Mostly, poor record keeping will result in the meeting’s inability to take the reins from where it was left at the last meeting. Actions points must also be followed through by the secretary and chair to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities arising from a particular meeting. This can be done by sending action memos or recording the proceedings as action minutes and circulating shortly after meetings.

In summery, the following factors make effective meetings:
Clear definition of purpose
Careful time control
Respect for all opinions
Effective record keeping
There should be management responses to recommendations
Minimise distractions
Create an informal atmosphere, allowing free contributions
Recognition of efforts
Encouragement of minority or the “quite participants” to make contributions.
Good preparation is the key to good participation and a successful meeting.
Leadership and effective control will ensure that a meeting runs well
Ensure follow up of actions.

What ever the purpose of the meeting, it will only be called effective if it achieves them. Effective meetings are cost effective in terms of its simplicity and the effective utilisation of the time of participants. To effectively utilise time however, the environment should definitely be devoid of distractions.

The Golden Rules
1. Consider every meeting as unique. Approach each meeting with all seriousness and prepare meticulously as if it were your first. Do not be bothered if you feel like going by the book. Only make sure it is your own ‘book’ – a modification of others’ books with your lessons learnt from experience.
2. A meeting’s success is judged by the actions that result from it. How people feel after the meetings is of prime concern to you and those for whom you organised the event. Recommendations and comments made by participants must at all cost be considered and feedback given. If there were comments for improving on the next conference, consider them. Even if they wouldn’t be used in the long run, acknowledge them.
3. Running the meeting is the responsibility of the whole group. A participatory meeting presents the best results. Ensure that every participant feels that the success of the meeting or conference ‘belongs’ to them. They will thus feel obliged to contribute towards its success.


Dr.Ramakrishnan Srinivasan said...

Dear Victor,

Enjoyed your blog. It is a rainbow in black and white. I would love to see it in VIBGYOR! Got it?

I am a member of WikiEducator India Team. My User name is Director.

You may glance through my earlier posts and comment upon them, if time permits.

I would like to join your blog to share similar ideas.



Victor Paa Kwesi Mensah said...

Thanks Doc,

Your blog is really nice and resourceful. I will send you an invite to be a contributor this this blog shortly.

Kindly feel free and post on any topic you like that shares your experiences that make you eventually into a winner.

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