Productive Meetings Demand A Code Of Conduct
by Alf Nucifora
I've just endured a solid week of back-to-back meetings from the
all day marathons to the grab-a-sandwich quickies. On many an occasion
I found myself undergoing the proverbial out-of-body experience,
the surreal state where one floats above or to the side of the room
and asks the question, " What am I doing here?"
It doesn't have to be that way. We have to force people
peers, and fellow workers to appreciate the value of time. It demands
discipline, constant reminder and in many cases downright chastisement
and disapproval. For the frustrated and suffering who are ready
to lay down the law, I give you, Alf's Meeting Code of Conduct,
guaranteed to speed the discourse, improve the quality of decision-making
and curb the meandering tendencies of the aimless and the unprepared.
In the spirit of true disclosure, please note that most of the following
advice surfaced from a musty file, lacking an author's name, yet
as relevant today as the day it first went into the file.
- Arrive on time and end on time. Clearly communicate "start"
and "end" times for the meeting. Embarrass the late
arrival offenders in open court. Better still, fine them. A dollar
for every minute late to meeting irrespective of the excuse. Repeat
offenders do it because they know they can get away with it.
- Always appoint a facilitator (on the spot, if necessary)
to control the agenda and guide the proceedings. And make sure
that the meeting always follows an agenda, preferably written
and agreed to by all parties in attendance.
- No tangents please! Stick to the topic at hand. If you
have other matters to raise, wait until the item under discussion
has been fully discussed and resolved.
- No gossip! Keep discussion focused on the issues over
which the group has control. If it titillates, it's generally
- One person speaks at a time. No side conversations please.
It's thoughtless, rude and distracting to engage in parallel conversation.
And always pay attention to the person who has the floor. Be respectful
of others. Good listening is always the hallmark of a collegial
environment and a productive session.
- Speak up! Don't be a chair warmer. Everyone has the
responsibility to contribute. Don't leech off the group's collective
brain. Be frank, honest and candid where appropriate.
- No whining. Unless it's a twelve-step program meeting,
be positive in your comments. If there must be criticism, make
it constructive. Avoid value judgments and always try to suggest
- Spare the oxygen. Don't dominate the conversation or
try to impress. Speak freely, but remember that rationing comment
can often establish expectation for what you're about to say next.
As always, quality tends to be valued more than quantity.
- After it's over, remember that the group speaks with one
voice. Ideas belong to the group, not the individual. Leave
- Time is money. As the meeting wanders into the no-man's-land
of idle banter and non-productive speculation, calculate the number
of wasted man-hours in the room and then multiply by direct labor
cost plus overhead factor. It's scary when you look at it that