Meeting Madness

Many times recently I’ve found myself in ‘meeting madness’. Someone somewhere has called a meeting, usually sending invitations via Outlook. The invitation usually has, at best, a one line summary of what the meeting is about. No agenda is set and nor are requests made explicit for necessary preparatory work to be completed prior to the meeting. Often nobody can track down the organiser of the meeting to seek clarity on what is expected or required.

The result: several busy people arrive in a room to find that they are not prepared for the actual meeting (since none of them actually knew what it was all about anyway). Often the first section of the meeting is concerned with setting the agenda to direct the discussions. Then the next section of the meeting is spent discovering that essential preparatory work is either not ready as yet or not done at all.

I know that I’m as guilty as the next person in this regard. So my new resolution is NOT to send out meeting requests to colleagues unless there is (a) a predefined agenda, (b) clearly set out requirements for any preparatory work by the attendees; and (c) a timeframe for the meeting.

The only exceptions to this are (a) where the meeting is a ‘catch up’ meeting with another person, where the agenda is simply to have an informal information sharing session together; or (b) scrum meetings that follow the scrum meeting model.

I feel like there are better ways to be spend my colleagues’ time and my employer’s money than on inefficient meetings. Clearly if we all continue the same way nothing will change. I cannot change what others do, but I can change my own meeting practice.

Author: Kate Carruthers

Kate Carruthers is Chief Data & Insights Officer for UNSW Sydney, and is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Engineering. She is certified in information security and is currently undertaking postgraduate studies terrorism and security. Kate has extensive experience in senior roles in ICT, marketing, data and digital; and is a member of the NSW Government’s Data Analytics Centre Advisory Board. Kate is currently working at the intersection of data analytics, AI, ML, privacy, cyber security, and data protection.