Agenda inequality

Several months back, my friend Salman was telling me that there is a simple, but universal, principle that applies to the selection and acquisition of computer hardware. He usually explains it to his clients as follows:

“Good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two”

In my field, the choice is even simpler: “I can do the work, or attend a meeting. Choose”. Sadly, the distinction doesn’t seem to be quite as clear-cut as you might expect. As a consequence, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in meetings to discuss why the work isn’t being done. Meetings are great breeding-grounds for irony.

At the latest one I attended, the Project Leader+ gave a presentation which began with, “We need to unpack the participative framework to synergise the processes and thereby optimally align the project outputs with the inputs”. My eyes rapidly glazed over as she continued to batter us with waves of incomprehensibility for well over an hour. I was virtually comatose and struggling not to drool on my notepad when she finally concluded her lecture by looking at each of us in turn and sternly intoning, “It is fundamentally important that we all participate in these meetings and not just sit there waiting for them to end”.

Holy fuck! By that stage I’d practically lost the will to live. My sole reason for existence was the seemingly impossible hope that the damned meeting would end.

+ or “Grand High Paramount Windbag” to use her full title

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25 thoughts on “Agenda inequality

  1. Thre’s a whole site off “buzz words” which I assume is just used to 1. make you SEEM smarter than anyone else in the room while confusing the (*%*#$ out of the other attendees. and 2. Probably guarantees that no-one will question you purely because they assume everyone else actually knows what you’re talking about.

    Have you noticed how the same people recycle the same ‘buzz words’… yes, sometimes in one sitting.

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  2. Academic conferences are the same… participants trying to outdo one other in the big word count. Acronyms are especially popular in this country.

    My understanding of education has always been that it should make things more understandable.

    Then again, I am just a thick colonial.

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  3. You haven’t lived until, in one such meeting, your incompetent boss tries to use big (or, to be fair, even small) words in a foreign language we all know he is far from mastering… Good times…

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  4. My eyes immediately automatically passed over your sentence of quoting your Project Leader, that is how well trained I have made myself to ignore blurb!

    Or that you sit in 20 meetings in 2 days, and by the 20th they are asking for the tasks they thought up in the 1st, & do not seem to like you explaining to them that maybe if they allowed you to leave the conference room for even 20 minutes you could even just START the “Action Points” from the 1st meeting.

    Kyk – you’ve been tagged via me but blame Rob!

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  5. I am fortunate in that I primarily work in an environment in which buzzwords and complicated-speak have not been mastered by those who would be most inclined to use it.

    It is probably just as well as I have no qualms about ridiculing them publicly, and they know it.

    However, we do have a manager who tends to go around the table (20-30 people usually) polling everyone in sequence for their opinions on, or response to, a particular matter, regardless of the fact that by the fifth person everything has usually been covered and no one else has anything relevant to contribute.

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  6. tripeak: I suspect nobody asks questions, because they fear the length of the answer.

    inyoka: We’re big on acronyms too. They’re a much-loved supplementary method of obsuring understanding.

    anne: Even if I haven’t lived, I still find myself praying for death. This is not an easy thing for an athiest.

    champs: It seems that our respective organisations are virtually interchangeable. Scary. BTW, I blame Rob for many things.

    mjw: Fortunate indeed. Any vacancies in your office?

    chitty: It would be a very long hour if she did 😛

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  7. At least there was an air of dignity about the proceedings (it’s all in the appearance of the language — and drool notwithstanding). You should visit a school staff meeting where teachers are debating an ‘ethical’ issue. That was the day I decided to quit…

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  8. She was probably a little girl who dreamed of being a Project Manager and splurbing meaningless waffle whilst the rest of us girls dreamt of being princesses.

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  9. Oh did this bring back memories! 🙂 Working in a hospital pharmacy, we had (thankfully) only one meeting a week. Where each pharmacist would have the opportunity to posture and “pontificate” on the latest problem using as many big and buzz words as could fit in to each sentence. As a lowly pharmacy tech. I had no problem raising my hand and point-blank asking what this word and that word meant. It managed to drag meetings out a good half hour longer. Until I started “volunteering” to “man” the pharmacy during meetings, and everyone readily agreed that was a good idea. I can’t think of a single instance where these meetings did a damn thing to aid in the daily operations. Never have I seen a group of professionals so determined to prove they were intellectually superior than pharmacists. (In reality, pharmacists are frustrated doctor wanna-be’s) My X was a pharmacist, lol.
    My present husband spends at least half of his day in meetings.(That isn’t an exageration either) I have come to the conclusion that top executives call meetings constantly to justify their salaries. Those who participate with great enthusiasm, do so to prove they are valuable assets to these top executives. And it would take an industrial strength cleanser to remove the shit from their ass-kissing noses. In my humble opinion of course. 😉
    As long as there are more cheifs(management) than indians (those who actually do the work) there will always be too many meetings.

    Good post kyknoord. Except of course for the many big words that I had no idea what they meant spliced together. 😉

    3T

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  10. I am always how ‘professionals’ (and I use that in a euphemistic capacity) feel the need to talk in verbose jargon just to sound important.
    Meetings would border on the acceptable if she’d just said, for instance: “We need to sort out the shit with the server. Any takers?”

    Doctors do it too: “You have mutiple fibroid haematoma at the base of your tibia resulting in flouroxinylititis to the rear of the eustachian tube.”

    (I have a bruise on my leg? Bummer.)

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  11. “We need to unpack the participative framework to synergise the processes and thereby optimally align the project outputs with the inputs”

    Now you see when someone starts off with cyber-babble like that, I would just hold up my hand and say I needed to go to the toilet.

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  13. Love the new template.
    I’ve avoided meetings this year.My worst are meetings about meetings about meetings which should have happened.
    So much that is said in meetings could easily be summarised into two words on an e-mail. But then that would be a perfect world where people would actually behave with some level of initiative.

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  14. moggy: Brilliant. Now that’s what I call leveraging blue-sky thinking.

    andrea: Were they mass-debating, by any chance?

    other-duke: I have no objection to time-wasting, but I draw the line when it’s a pointless, dull waste of time.

    wendz: So dreams do come true.

    3T: Okay, here’s a rough translation: blah blah blah blah. See? Not so difficult.

    peas: Use common sense in the corporate world? Surely you jest.

    luke: You’d have to rephrase that as having identified an opportunity to integrate a basic physical need with the available infrastructure. BTW, thanks.

    alan: Yow. That cuts uncomfortably close to the bone.

    jam: Let’s get your people to set up a meeting with my people so we can discuss it.

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  15. You’re a riot.
    Sweet layout man.
    Comin here 7 days after you posted – I know, i know SHAMEFUL. So utterly despicable I cant even stand the sight of myself.

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