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
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Excuses, Excuses
- When a goal remains unaccomplished, we sometimes tell ourselves that we understand why. And sometimes
we do. But at other times, we're just fooling ourselves.
- Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: I
- Whoever facilitates your distributed meetings — whether a dedicated facilitator or the meeting
chair — will discover quickly that remote facilitation presents special problems. Here's a little
catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
- Pet Peeves About Work
- Everybody has pet peeves about work. Here's a collection drawn from my own life, the lives of others,
and my vivid imagination.
- The Artful Shirker
- Most people who shirk work are fairly obvious about it, but some are so artful that the people around
them don't realize what's happening. Here are a few of the more sophisticated shirking techniques.
- How to Waste Time in Meetings
- Nearly everyone hates meetings. The main complaint: they're mostly a waste of time. The main cause:
us. Here's a field manual for people who want to waste even more time.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 18: Missing the Obvious: II
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- And on October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
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