Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Allowance for virtual meetings

I have a 4:00 meeting every weekday. Unfortunately, I left for my 4:00 meeting at 4:00 today. You see, Pandora played Robbie Williams' "Burslem Normals" for me today, and I was enjoying it.

So I left for my 4:00 meeting at 4:00, arriving at about 4:02.

The meeting ended about 20 seconds later.

After the meeting was officially over, the meeting chair asked if, in the cases of meetings with short agendas, he could simply circulate an email at about 3:45 and get our buy-in on the decisions.

However, this could run into potential problems. My employer is process-oriented, and I'm sure that our process language for this meeting implies that each of us need to be physically present for the meeting to take place.

I've already rewritten one of our internal processes. Originally, this process assumed that meetings of a particular committee were preplanned, and therefore the process explicitly stated that the meeting needed to have an agenda, and each item on the agenda had to include a pre-selected "reason." But what if the general manager wants to talk about something RIGHT NOW and get it resolved? Well, I had to account for that by writing an allowance for emergency meetings with no prepared agenda and no "reason" for each item; under certain circumstances, such a meeting is allowed.

I am not an expert on meeting science, but I know what I like. And I don't like meetings. I want to get 'em over with, so I want 'em to be as efficient as possible. And sometimes it's more efficient to send an email around, rather than gathering everybody into a room.

The IEEE has examined this issue:

In late 2003, the IEEE Board of Directors approved revisions to IEEE Bylaw I-300.4(4) Action of the Board of Directors and Committees. This amendment to the IEEE Bylaws is sometimes referred to as the "e-mail voting bylaw". The change permits the transmission of votes using e-mail and other electronic means. However, it also changes the voting requirement needed when a board or committee is taking an action without holding a formal meeting....

Organizational units should keep in mind that it is often preferable for deliberative discussions to take place at formal meetings, be they in-person or via teleconference, when all participants can hear one another. The intent of IEEE Bylaw I-300.4(4) is not to eliminate those important discussions from the deliberative process. All actions to be acted upon without a formal meeting should be vetted thoroughly, and there should be a clear sense that the group has had an adequate opportunity for discussion, albeit by electronic means, to reach a consensus on the matter.

And, of course, if the meeting is a virtual meeting, then I can continue to listen to this. (Note that this is not an official video, but it's nice.)

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