When we complain that meetings are boring, time-wasting, maddening, or frustrating, it might help to check first the roles we play ourselves. There are dozens of tactics and ploys, which I've been collecting over the years. Here's the fourth installment of a little catalog of the more common ones. See "Games for Meetings: III," Point Lookout for March 19, 2003, for more.
- The Price Is Right
- See if you can guess the budget I have in my mind without going over.
- Real negotiation entails mutual disclosure. If the sponsor conceals budget information, the negotiation is biased and cannot achieve a mutually balanced outcome. As a sponsor, be prepared to state clearly what you can afford. As a provider, ask directly for any information you need.
- Price Justification
- Here's why my estimate exceeds the real cost by the amount you'll probably cut.
- Playing this game trains sponsors to play the "cost cut" game. Give honest estimates, and when they're cut, reduce the deliverables.
- What a Great Idea!
- Make a brilliant suggestion, end up responsible for implementing it.
- When a manager uses this ploy, everyone becomes a little less willing to offer suggestions. See "The 'What-a-Great-Idea!' Trap," Point Lookout for February 28, 2001, for some tips for dealing with this.
- I Did It
- I'm completely responsible for that success.
- Of one thing we can be certain in these networked, team-oriented times: one person is rarely responsible for anything, good or ill. We succeed or fail together.
- They Did It
- They're completely responsible for that failure.
- See above. This one is probably even more toxic than "I Did It." Prevalence of this pattern is a sign of a blame-oriented culture.
- Hospital Pass
- Hand someone a responsibility just before it implodes.
- The term "hospital pass" comes from rugby. This ploy is expensive to an organization, because it teaches people that accepting responsibility is dangerous. If you use it yourself, don't be surprised if people scatter when they see you coming.
- You are hereby ordered to step forward.
- As a manager, the temptation to use this technique is strong. But you can overcome it if you remind yourself that for most of the work you need done, compliance and obedience aren't enough. Creativity and dedication cannot be commanded. They must be given freely.
- I'll do it for God and company, even if it means my career-death.
- If your managers or your organization are wrong-headed enough to ask you to do something foolish, that's their problem. Don't make it yours. As a manager, if you rely on Martyrs to get things done, expect all the high-cost consequences of increased turnover.
Which of these do you do? Which can you stop doing? What can you do instead? Keep track of what you see in your meetings, and talk about their costs. More coming in future issues — send me descriptions of your more delightful discoveries. Top Next Issue
Do you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
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