Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unproductive Meetings

I just left an Exco meeting of a Toastmasters club; I won’t identify which. But I must confess that the meeting was severely trivialized and therefore, it became a time-wasting sojourn. Perhaps many of us are not aware that meeting management tends to be a set of skills often overlooked by leaders and managers. With regard to the conduct of meetings – it is important that we do it right because only then will these meetings yield productive outcomes. And knowing how to conduct meetings properly serves to remind me and others (those privileged or cursed, as the case may be, who may be summoned to attend meetings). I would like to highly recommend meeting participants to follow these rules:

Firstly, always start on time; this respects those who showed up on time and reminds late-comers that the scheduling is serious.

Secondly, communicate the meeting’s specific purpose before you start. List what you want to discuss and who will lead those. If we cannot ascertain the specific purpose, it’s probable that we don’t even need to have the meeting in the first place. (Differentiate between specific and general purposes. Personally, I don’t believe we should have general meetings!)

Thirdly, practice time management – time seems to run out before tasks are completed. Therefore, the biggest challenge is keeping momentum to keep the process moving.

Fourthly, always end meetings on time and more importantly, close on a positive note. At the end of a meeting, review actions and assignments, and set the time for the next meeting and ask each person if they can make it or not (to get their commitment).

And lastly, develop a habit of evaluating the overall meeting. This helps us to know if the meeting has indeed been useful and therefore, productive.

I shudder to attend meetings that are meandering ones. These are nothing more than get-together rituals, almost always consisting of participants making long-winded reports that tell us nothing of real significance. I know that very little of these reports are useful – mine included – and beyond the reporting, if participants do discuss, then their ideas are at best, random and impoverished. I believe that meetings should always be short, precise and focused. Let us promise to do away with unproductive meetings! If you won't, please do not invite me!

Yesterday, the Shah Alam sessions court slapped a RM1,000 fine on 12 men who were part of a shameful group that were involved in the provocative cow-head protests on August 28 last year. Two men were also charged with sedition and fined another RM3,000 with one of the two also ordered to serve one week in jail.

MIC is strangely silent and Hindu Sangam president Mohan Shanmugam had the cheek to say the penalties did serve as a warning to those looking to stoke racial tensions. Other Indian groups (e.g. PPP, IPF, Hindraf, Malaysian Makkal Sakti Party, MIUP) zipped their mouths. It took Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, a Muslim to express dismay over the sentences as he felt that the protests were politically motivated and the fines could easily be covered by political “sponsors”. The Malaysian Insider's Dina Zaman (Webpage, posted July 27, 2010) was equally blunt. She wrote “Reading this piece of news this morning has impressed upon myself even more that in this country, the bad get away with murder. When will good prevail?” referring to the slap in the wrist punishment. “As a Muslim and Malaysian, I feel ashamed and very sad”. Very true – it is a shame and a sham! What to do? This is my Malaysia!

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