We've Got to Stop Meeting Like This
Where did it all begin, this mania for meetings? Back in the Paleolithic Age is my bet. I'm sure anthropologists have come across cave drawings of Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble and some of the other guys (no women allowed back then, of course) sitting around a large, flat rock discussing the day's agenda:
(1) Read Minutes of Last Meeting
(2) Invent Wheel
(3) Discover Fire
Of course, by the time all the attendees finished disputing the accuracy of item No. 1, the sun had gone down; and items 2 and 3 had to be shelved. I'm not sure, but I think they kept getting postponed until the Neolithic Age.
Nothing has changed much. Today business people the world over spend hour after unproductive hour sitting around talking instead of doing. The setting is different, of course.
Ankle-deep plush carpeting instead of dirt floors. Yards of polished mahogany conference table instead of your basic boulder. Walls decorated with elaborately-framed, expensive art instead of hieroglyphics. But the same old yaketty-yak, with everyone trying to speak a little louder and a lot longer--it matters not about what--in order to hog the limelight and the boss's attention.
You remember the boss. He's the one who called this meeting in the first place. Why? To develop a new marketing strategy? To determine why the last quarter was such a disaster? To gather suggestions for the company picnic? None of the above. The real reason was so he could bask in the limelight and enjoy the spectacle of his acolytes trying to out-yes each other.
Let's face it. If Mr. Big wants to confer with his troops, he doesn't have to gather them from the far-flung corners of his empire as did Richard III. Today's fearless leader could simply set up a conference telephone call, or turn on his computer and chat with his underlings in cyberspace. Instead, the modern CEO spends mega money to fly the company's executives first class to an exotic tropical island where he provides lavish suites and gourmet feasts in decadently luxurious hotels. In return they might be expected to attend a pool-side meeting gobbling caviar while their chief outlines belt-tightening measures to help the company survive the latest tumble of its stock.
Unfortunately, this insanity isn't confined to the private sector. I'd like to have a tax rebate for every time a bunch of Washington VIPs and their staffs fly, first class, to some luxury resorts to hold meetings to discuss ways to trim the federal budget. This is common operating procedure. Our elected and appointed bureaucrats are in perpetual motion, criss-crossing the country and the continents to meet with each other, with officials of other countries, with constituents, or with various special interest groups. But it's hard to blame them. The example is set at the top. President Clinton, like his predecessors, seems to have spent most of his administration (that is, when he wasn't in the oval office with Monica) on gas-guzzling Air Force One flying to meet with Putin, Arafat, Burak, and God knows who else. These guys can't talk on the phone? I mean it's not like Willy needs the frequent flyer mileage so he and Hillary can go check on their Whitewater investment now and then.
I'd really like to delve into this dilemma and solve it, but I don't have time right now. I'm already late for my Anti Meetings Group meeting.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.