Meeting without eating is nothing but cheating!!!

MEETING, first thing that come to mind is late Jaspal Bhatti! What a true reflection of things!! 

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I should count my lucky stars that in the 27 years in my corporate life, I never got in to the rut of meeting which are meaningless, non productive and rambles on clueless, directionless. Yes, one assignment, the devil caught up with me too (few years back!!), in which I got stuck for 6 months,was hell where meetings rambled on and on without an agenda, without purpose and 2 hr meeting could drag for 4 hrs with no one giving a damn!  I cant recollect a single meeting ending on time during that time.This is shameful as in corporate environment, where business leaders (Now a days EHS is too sucked in this stupid act) are required to provide leadership, guidance, direction and instruction to team to stay on top of the situation/issues. Instead they waste their time in such stupid meetings!! As my 1990s, #Sandoz Colleague, Tapas Chakraborty( Wonder where is he now??) used to say” Meeting without eating is nothing but cheating” Thankfully, as a Change Agent, I am able to direct meetings to a large extent and would be able to judge a company’s work culture out of meetings!! 

Yes, Indian entities have to a long way in honoring time committment, and we joke even from Sandoz days 1990s  “IST= INDIAN STRECHABLE TIME”. 30-40% of my meetings over the last 5 years have been delayed by good 30 min and to one instance to over FOUR hours without a semblance of an apology from the “Saettu” (Tamil colloquial for Gujju/Marwadi owners)  ( It was another matter we ignored them forever as closing the meeting was more out of courtesy which imbibed in you than get business!! ) Indian Multinationals too no different, in one instance, a EHS Manager, me having traveled 50 Kms, for 10am appointment, cooly asked me if I can be  present at 3pm (Fully knowing my flight back to Bangalore from Baroda, is at 2pm!! such people!!, I tell you!)  I can count god’s blessings, as I have heard many frustrating episodes of Indian ministers making my CEO, Chairman wait for hours!!! I have broadly established a corelation over five years that companies that keep up time committment in honoring meeting appointments, have kept up their payment committment! Thus giving me a clear prelude to how things would shape up!!! 

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So How EHS folks can do their bit to have a sensible meetings and dont have to be a victim and feel, What can be cured has to be endured!! What is an indication of a good meeting? They are,

  • Effective– A decision was arrived at! effectiveness trumps efficiency
  • Efficient – So stuff that was planned ahead gets done!
  • Positive and fun – So people enjoy themselves and look forward to the next meeting. (Not for eating donuts or Samosa)
  • Participative – So everyone participates equally, instead of just zoning out or faking agreement.
  • Open – So people say what they really think with Candor without Shout out! 
  • Creative – So the thinking goes beyond the usual and into new territory.

Here is how this can be acheived:-

  1. Communicate well in advance.Haste makes waste. Give a good lead time. 
  2. Decide the # participants, >10 usually non productive. 
  3. Send Meeting request over Outlook etc, ensure acceptance for 70% of attendees.
  4. Make sure the meeting room is available, No point in gate crash or hope to find a room available. Use Outlook or meeting room software. 
  5. Work an agenda a typical agenda would have Time from/to, Topic, Person’s Name called Directly Responsible Individual (DRI)! Review of last meeting a key item as well as progress acheived.
  6. Start the meeting on time! Don’t wait for every one to arrive, however important be the person, (Unless informed before he would be running late).
  7. Reward early bird and punish late arrivals. (Punishment could be scribe for next meeting or a Good humored T-Shirt indicating “Late Latiff” (My Boss had distributed such in 1990s) or collect Fund from late comers to be used for common cause.
  8. Close the meeting room door, 2min post the start time.
  9. Put Cell phone in the middle of table, no one allowed to use it, should be in silent mode.
  10. Use “SPACER” —->Safety, Purpose, Agenda, Conduct, Expectation, Results
  11. When scheduled end time on agenda item is reached, if no decision is arrived, put on parking lot, move to the next item on agenda.
  12. The chairperson should ensure no one person hijack a meeting agenda, ensure collective participation. Meetings are to work things that EMAIL can’t decide!!
  13. Take notes of meeting, need not be detailed, some key aspects as memory jogger to transfer in to meaningful summary of discussions.
  14. Meeting should have Drop Dead Time, Come what may, It can not extend beyond the time mentioned in agenda.
  15. Learn to respect other’s time. Treat others way you wanted to be treated.
  16. No Side conversations, do not interrupt, listen.

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I was lucky to participate in standing meeting which helps people to focus on items and finish on time. I have heard of colleagues who have worked on tableless meetings. The advantages are:-stand-up-meetings-will-make-your-team-a-lot-more-productive

  • People are more free to move around, instead of being locked into one sitting position, which keeps people charged energised.
  • Communication flows better, because one can see the entire person.
  • An increased participation, because people can’t simply slump down and hide
  • You can get people closer together. If you seat 10 people around a table, the distance from one end to the other is going to be huge.
  • Seating people in a circle signals that everyone is equal. It’s democratic, unlike normal table where the boss sits at the head of the table.

Meetings can be made lively by the above actions (not just excited over Donuts etc). (That too would disappear if the bloody recessions hits, who better than me to see the mayhem in 2008-2010 global recession!) 

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On the other hand, it is always good  to know the 12 Meeting killers and weed them out!!! Courtesy: Ott Joggi.

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Good Luck and God Bless


Mother’s day, 2017 ; 1450 Hrs. 









Author: Karthik B; Orion Transcenders. Bangalore.

Lives in Bangalore. HESS Professional of 30+ yrs experience. Global Exposure in 4 continents of over 22 years in implementation of Health, Environment, Safety, Sustainability. First batch of Environmental Engineers from 1985 Batch. Qualified for implementing Lean, 6Sigma, HR best practices integrating them in to HESS as value add to business.

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