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Meeting Time

Ok, I have a question.... How many hours out of your week do you spend in meetings?  I am just shocked at how many meetings I am invited to  (and must go to).  On a good week, I have at a minimum 5 hours of meetings.  That is 1/8th of my week.  On a bad week though (like this one) I think my meetings will come in at about 12-15 hours.  That is almost a third of my week in meetings.  I have been with this company since I graduated from college so this is all that I know.  Everyone outside is shocked at the amount of meetings we have here. 
Oh and if there is some sort of "major issue" they require daily meetings.  We have a theory around here.... promotions and salary increases are directy proportional to the amount of daily meetings you have.
Granted I am the tech lead on my procjet and I know I should be attending some meetings, but doesn't that seem ridiculous?  Does anyone have any advice?


Matt Watson
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Sounds to me like you think these meetings are a waste of time.  Have you talked separately to the meeting chairperson(s) about this?  Try suggesting something like you attend every second meeting, and send an email update to the chairperson for the meetings you skip.

The amount of time spent in meetings would obviously relate to the amount of projects you are working on.

Speak to your manager.  Your productivity could be being harmed, which would affect your annual review. :-)

Scott B
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

> How many hours out of your week do you spend in meetings?

At the moment it is an average of about 4 hrs/week for me. It used to be less than this, but at the moment we are having some major changes to our software as well as to our development process and I took over some QA responsibilities, too. (Normally I am just a programming grunt)

I would say that this meeting time is dearly needed and most of the time very effieciently used. But how many meetings you need depends on the size of the company/department/team you work with and on the overall communication culture you maintain.

I do not mind meetings as long as I have the feeling that they are neccessary and the information gathered there is indeed connected to my work and helps me when programming. I get impatient when I feel that I do not learn anything useful at a meeting and my input is not needed or wanted either. Fortunately this does not happen often.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Unfortunately there are some places... well, maybe quite a few... where meetings are held as a pretense of doing work.

Or, in other terms, the purpose of the meeting is to establish, maintain, keep or enforce the "social pecking order" of the participants.

The best recommendation is to stop going to any meeting, required or otherwise, in those cases where it serves no productive use of your time. 

If it is considered "socially unacceptable" to turn down a meeting then you can always have a good time picturing everyone as a chicken.  Their behavior is very close to what happens in a hen farmyard.

Joe AA.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

One technique that I use to control meeting time is to insist that the meeting have a formal agenda and firm objectives.  This makes it a little more costly for folks that like to call meetings to do it (since they have to actually think about the objectives and agenda).  It also is useful in preventing certain individuals from taking over the meeting to satisfy their need for constant debate.  This, in turn, prevents you having to call another meeting to get done what you wanted to get done in the first one.  This approach also seems to yield better results, in my experience.

Another tactic is to demand (or assign) prework.  This succeeds for the same reasons as above.

Meeting Misser
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Why not remove all the chairs from the conference room and don't allow anyone to sit at meetings?  That would keep them short.

Or (as I heard from a movie):  If a meeting can start without me, it's not worth attending.

Sean Conner
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Maybe you're thinking of Groucho Marx: "I refuse to be a part of any meeting that would invite me as an attendee?"

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

In addtion to a strict agenda, limit all meetings to 4 attendees. Less is better. No exceptions.

If you still have more than 4, start crossing off agenda items until you get there. Then schedule another meeting for the other items.

Dan Sickles
Tuesday, July 16, 2002

I agree with Dan.  Limit the number of attendees to four and you should have no problems with the meeting getting off topic and wasting other people's time.  Oh, and eliminate status meetings entirely.  Collect status from your reports via email.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

So, people call meetings for your input but don't want to hear what you really desire to say?  Amazing!

Two options come to mind.  One is, during those meetings, commit to time Schedules that mean you "can't make it to many meetings."  Depending on how things go, you will be seen as having made a valiant effort.  Maybe email a friend who goes to those meetings to drop your name.  ("Bob is today ensuring the GUI subsystem has Six Sigma quality, boy are those GUIs monsters!")  Then when you make a meeting, sound focussed but satisfied at having slain dragons.  Make the next few meetings, say interesting things.  Rinse, lather...

The other option is if being "lead programmer" means being some sort of manager.  Then you implement the Umbrella management design pattern, running interference so your other programmers don't have to waste their time.  Make sure during those meetings you get great developers, so they don't need your regular input.  Take time outside of meetings to make sure your skills are sharp, so you don't slowly morph into an unhireable management bozo.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Yeh, fill up your day with specific tasks, so you can apologise and explain that's when you're coding the update algorithm, or whatever.

Where management is dumb, they presume programmers are always available; they interpret the lack of interaction with another person as not being busy.

Hugh Wells
Thursday, July 18, 2002

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