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CIO Upfront: The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of meetings

CIO Upfront: The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of meetings

Meetings can be the worst part or the most energising aspect of any role, says Mark Bennett, IT Director at Salvation Army. He dissects the things that make a meeting productive – or pointless.

Meetings are a part of every role I've ever had whether in a global company or a small club. Whether formal or not, meetings seem to happen everywhere and they can be either the worst part of the role or the most energising aspect.

I remember kicking a group of people out of my office after they turned up for a meeting they had scheduled. They arrived with no agenda, nothing to share and no actions to assign.

So, after three or four minutes of dribble, I asked them to leave.

There was also a time I took a phone call from an unknown number (something I rarely do) so I could escape from a mind numbing meeting delving into details that nobody present needed to know or understand. A Doctor Jekyll meeting.

Meeting Mr Hyde

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Then there are the meetings that happen and you leave with your enthusiasm for the project or task amplified to the point you work on it immediately. A Mr Hyde meeting. So what accounts for the difference? Is it just the attitude I take in?

Personally I think there is a single factor that determines the likelihood of a Mr Hyde meeting. I don't mind admitting there are many other matters that influence just how good it will be - clear communication before (and after) the meeting, location, starting (and finishing) on time, organisation (having enough handouts for the participants, etc) among just a few)!

However, at the core of a Mr Hyde meeting there is one single defining feature - the outcome.

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I remember kicking a group of people out of my office after they turned up for a meeting they had scheduled. They arrived with no agenda, nothing to share and no actions to assign.

When a meeting has a clear outcome (sharing of information, assigning or tasks, creation of timeline, definition of features), it is more likely to succeed. So before arriving at any meeting I am responsible for, I stop and think about the outcome and make sure I'm clear on what the meeting is all about.

After this, the rest falls into place, it becomes really clear and apparent what is important to include in the agenda, what to communicate before the meeting, what to take to the meeting, etc.

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It seems simple now that I have written my ramblings down. I know I will still have to suffer through some pointless meetings, but they will not be, hopefully, the ones I am responsible for.

Mark Bennett (mark_bennett@nzf.salvationarmy.org) is the IT Director at Salvation Army in New Zealand.

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Send comments and contributions to CIO Upfront to divina_paredes@idg.co.nz

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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