45-Minute Meetings and Reflection on the Crisis in Syria

Today I learned:

 45-Minute Meetings: Last night I listened to a new podcast put out by Manager-Tools.com on 45 minute meetings.

There were a number of good reminders, such as:

–      circulate an agenda in advance

–      start and end on time

–      maintain an eye on the clock and a militant hand on the agenda

The advice, while good, was for the most part not new (and they admitted as much in the podcast). The simple concept of 45 minutes is an interesting one though.

The basic premise is this:  Meeting best-practices aside, whatever you can do in 1-hour, you can probably accomplish in 45 minutes. Essentially it is just a MS Outlook default setting that causes us to book most meetings for an hour, and when we truly put thought into the time required we will typically realize less is more. I decided to give this a run today, and re-booked a meeting I had scheduled with 8 people from across the company for 45 minutes instead of an hour.

The result? Success.

Would we have ended that fast anyway? Possibly, but there is risk in taking that approach. Conversations tend to fill the time available to hold them.  Today, I made the timeline very clear at the start, and the end result is that 8 people saved 15 minutes. Put another way, the company gained 2 hours additional time for other matters. Not a bad start.

All-in-all, more valuable insight from the guys at Manager-Tools.com. Highly recommend.

The Crisis in Syria: I read an article in the Economist this morning about recent events in Syria, and it occurred to me it had been awhile since I had spoken with a friend of mine originally from the area.  I decided to see how he is doing.

He told me his parents and siblings are living in a “war zone.” Shops and businesses are generally closed, opening only  periodically and briefly to help get citizens critical supplies.  The only time his family has left the house in the last 7 days was when they were smoked out due to fumes from a pipeline which exploded in the area. The internet and phones lines are intermittent, and while he is speaking with them daily, it is often after dozens of attempts to get through.

I asked what he thinks the outcome will be and he said lessons from other countries in the region will not be translated directly to Syria’s President – “when you believe you are a god, you dismiss similar events, as you can not believe they relate to you.” In the end, he feels the tide is slowly turning and the outcome will be no different than in other places, such as Libya.  One man hidden in an ever shrinking strong-hold, surrounded by an ever shrinking army of supporters.

Personally it is having a huge impact on him.  At this point he said “ I can’t sleep. I get up at 2am every night to watch the news of what is happening during the daylight hours there.” Most telling though, his final comment: “Despite all that, in the 16 years since I left Syria, this is the first time I wish I was home.” He would rather leave a quiet life in Canada to enter a war zone, just to be near his family.

Day to day problems at home don’t seem too bad…

Email-free Day and Overtime Solves Nothing

Today I learned:

1. Email-free Day: Email has been getting out of hand for me lately. From wasted time on CYA activities (noted in an earlier blog) to the mass of incoming and outgoing messages I deal with everyday it is all a bit overwhelming.  I checked my sent items this morning and quickly determined that in the past two weeks I have sent 422 messages.

I decided today would be different.

My goal? Zero sent messages.

http://rivera-pr.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/no_email_friday.jpg

9 hours later…mission accomplished!

I will admit three times I caught myself pecking out a reply to someone but each time I quickly caught myself and either made a return call or just walked over to their desk instead.

As a result, I learned a simple lesson. You talk to a hell of a lot more people in a day when you commit to sending less email. Presumably this is a good thing. This trial showed me email-free days could be worthy of a bit more experimentation.  Finding a way to stop reading them for a day might be next.

2. Overtime solves nothing: When I chair a meeting it starts on time. People know this, so they quickly adjust and show up on time.  Very rarely do I allow my meetings to go over the scheduled time slot too, and certainly not without checking on the participants to see if it is both ok and agreed it will be worth it.

After participating in two meetings today that both started and ended late it occurred to me extra time at the end rarely solves anything. Whether you start on time or not, if you haven’t solved the problem by the scheduled end, rarely is another 15 minutes going to solve anything. Often it is better to move on and then, only if necessary, revisit later when everyone can come in fresh.