Hold a meeting

I posted this cartoon about six years ago*. It’s one of those throwaway posts that I notice still gets picked up by others.

I often sense that meetings which are apparently being organised to deal with a problem become unwittingly, devices to avoid dealing with the problem. It’s like a variation of Shirky’s Principle.

Here’s how it plays out. Someone in an organisation identifies a really challenging issue. A big meeting is planned so that it can be dealt with. Because it’s a big meeting, it takes a long time to get folks together. As a result, the need for it to appear to succeed increases exponentially which is often a setup for all manner of politics to get in the way of reality.

Meanwhile, nothing is done to even begin to deal with the big issue, because obviously this need to be left until the big meeting at which all the powerful players will be present. Energy gets focussed on how to influence this future event, and nothing is ventured towards dealing with the issue now.

By the time the meeting arrives, everyone in charge is so full of angst that they try to eliminate or reduce all risks of spontaneity and apparent risks of “failure”. Euphemisms take the place of a real discussion of the issue, and platitudes are formally exchanged.

Not much actually changes. And a few months later, the powers-that-be realise that what’s needed is another big meeting….

* The origin of this cartoon has vanished behind a dead link, apols to anyone concerned.

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