Is “meeting chaos” taking over your company?

From Mike Sisco’s Practical IT Manager Newsletter

treadmill-2Meetings, meetings, meetings, , , all we do is meet!

Sound familiar? You bet it does. In today’s world, technology has made accessibility much easier and our productivity is better than ever.

Or is it?

Seems like we meet so much there isn’t time to do real work. In fact, we have so many meetings I’m sure there are times when you are double booked. It’s a common complaint I hear from IT managers all over the world.

I call it “meeting chaos”.

Here is a picture of what happens to many IT managers on a busy meeting day:

  • 8:00am – Start the day with a quick stand-up meeting with fellow managers to announce your schedule for the day.
  • 8:30am – A daily team status meeting keeps your team focused.
  • 9:00am – Project-A weekly status conference call
  • 10:00am – Employee meeting to discuss issues
  • 11:00am – Monthly status meeting with your boss
  • 11:30-1:00pm – Open time – check email and phone messages
  • 1:00pm – Project-B weekly status meeting
  • 2:00pm – Planning meeting for Project-C
  • 3:00pm – Budget meeting with CFO and Controller
  • 4:00pm – Monthly Project Portfolio update meeting
  • 4:30pm – Performance planning meeting with an employee
  • 5:30pm – Conference call with client on a later time zone

meeting-3This is the life of an IT manager on many days. So, when do you get work done? You got it, early morning before work time, after work time and nights, , , or weekends.

Oh, I forgot, , , we have a 1 1/2-hour block of time during lunch to do some things, , , check email and phone messages, follow-up on a few items, and probably last minute preparation for one of the afternoon meetings. 🙂

Does the image of “being on a treadmill” start to form in your head?

I’ve experienced this when doing consulting work providing a few companies interim CIO services recently, , , it’s a real challenge.

I can tell you firsthand that company meeting time has increased significantly since I left my permanent CIO role and created MDE Enterprises, Inc. in 2000. When I’ve provided interim CIO services in the last 5 years, it was immediately obvious that we are now in a “meeting chaos” world.

Why is this?
My belief is because we are doing more for one thing. The need for new technology has increased, , , both by the Users as well as within our IT organization.

Let’s take the Users, , , our clients have gained more knowledge about technology and there are more options for them to use new technology to operate their business. They haven’t necessarily gotten to expert status, , , but the demand for new technology is certainly there and the IT organization must support them.

Now, the IT side, , , our technology world has changed immensely in the past 10 years, , , the cloud, SaaS, BYOD, cybersecurity issues, , , plus the fact that new technology is more cost effective and drives our organizations to implement these new products to help drive down or maintain our IT expenses. It’s constant change just to maintain the status quo.

meeting-5Another reason we meet more often is because we have technology that makes it so easy like inexpensive, even free video conferencing capability, free phone conferencing options, etc.

These technologies make it so easy to fire off a new meeting invitation that our calendars fill up quickly, , , and regularly.

OK, , , we get the picture, , , bottom line is we are busier and this requires more meeting time for planning, getting updates, troubleshooting issues, and the like.

What can you do?
There are actually several things you can do. Here is a list of ideas you might consider and try in your company.

  1. Analyze the value you and others receive from meetings and try eliminating a few.
  2. Combine meetings that require the same people.
  3. Start meetings on time and don’t let them linger longer than needed.
  4. Stop over booking yourself, , , make a choice of which meetings you must attend and opt out of others.
  5. Assess whether you can reduce the time allotted for certain meetings.
  6. Do conference calls instead of requiring people to assemble in a meeting location. Won’t eliminate a meeting but can save people time commuting to/from the meeting.
  7. Try “stand up” meetings to reduce meeting time.
  8. Ask the meeting organizer if your participation is optional. What I find is that quite often meeting organizers put me on the list because they think I might either want to participate or should be invited, , , when the reality is that my presence isn’t necessary.

Another idea came to mind as I was writing this article. Do you remember back when IT organizations used to print every report and distribute to users because it was “how we used to do things”?

I’ve been known to stop printing certain reports just to see if anyone actually looked at them. To my surprise, in many cases they were not being reviewed, , , so we started eliminating the requirement to print many of them.

My sense is that you can probably take the same approach with many of your meetings, , , cancel a few “less important” ones and see if anyone feels pain. If not, you are on a path of “getting back some of your productivity time”.

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