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Inoculation for the Meetings Plague (#7 in the series A Cynical Perspective on Project Management)
By Barry Otterholt

Meetings are like a plague. Once they get hold, they’re really difficult to eradicate. The maxim “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to the meetings plague. Here’s a simple 4-step approach to inoculate yourself from contracting the plague.

  • Start with the assumption that no meetings are needed, and delete them all.
  • If somebody persuades you that one really is needed, give in. But assume that nobody need attend so don’t invite anybody. At this step you can just stay in your office and get other work done, because nobody else will be there.

  • If somebody persuades you that somebody really needs to attend, give in. But invite only one person. At this step, schedule the meeting for only 5 minutes. That forces them to make the point and be done with it. You should also have the meeting in their office, because it’s much less awkward to get up and leave their office ofter 5 minutes than kick them out of your office that quickly.

  • If somebody persuades you that the meeting really needs to be recurring, give in. But stick with the 5-minute rule. Allow a different location only if it’s a hallway, and only if they agree to bring treats.

In all cases, require an agenda be created, but don’t let them send it out. Agendas are a nuisance and double the meeting time just to read it.

That’s it. You’re welcome.

Barry Otterholt has been a project management specialist and coach for the past 30 years. He is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a Project Management Professional (PMP). He works with both public and private sector companies in the USA, Europe and Scandinavia. Mr. Otterholt was a Director with Microsoft, a senior consultant with Deloitte Consulting, and a COO with a nationwide consumer electronics enterprise. In 1988 he founded Public Knowledge, LLC to provide independent management and operational support to the public sector. More recently, he founded Stouffer & Company, LLC to provide as-needed project management services to fill an obvious skills gap in both private and public sectors.

Mr. Otterholt is an adjunct professor teaching project management at Northwest University. His essays on project management have been published in PMI newsletters. His runs a blog, Project Management Essays, where he muses about various project management topics. He lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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