Monday, June 06, 2005

Meetings on Meetings

The next day Victor held an early meeting about the project. He wanted to know what our day's plans were and if we had any obstacles. Then we talked about other parts of the program. And then we talked about future features, and things that we might do sometime in the future. Two hours later we were ready to get started on the day.

The next day we had another meeting, and the day after that. Over the course of the next few weeks we spent 100 or so man-hours having meetings about how the project more productive.

I'm not a big fan of meetings for the sake of having a meeting. I realize that on any large project, meetings tie the principal participants together and keep everyone appraised of its status. And having many great minds in the same room brainstorming is a thing of wonder. But I prefer a meeting with a set topic and duration. Unfortunately, my preferences weren't the driving force behind our meetings. I haven't worked at a company yet where someone told the president that his meeting was wasting time and he was talking about irrelevant things. So we kept having meetings.

One day, Rutherford called me into his office. He had a strange habit: he would walk through the engineering department without saying anything. A few moments later, Stasi style, one of us would get a call from his office asking to stop by.

His sentences were steeped in bureaucratic style and usually began with steepled fingers, pursed lips, and an opening of "as you know..." or "moving forward..."

"As you know, we've all been working very hard on this project," he started, predictably. "We've also made an international commitment to a major vendor that this project is very, um, important to."

He paused awkwardly. I said nothing, wondering where he was going. And since the awkward pause was his own, I left him on the hook. He looked around, then continued, "Moving forward, if you can, uh, get this project finished by our deadline, we'd like to pay for you and, um, Antonia to have a nice meal downtown, and maybe spend the night."

He smiled, as if he had just offered to double my salary. I tried to decide whether I should be amused, offended or even grateful. I think I ended up offused.

"Well, thanks," I said lamely. Then my jaw steeled, "We're working very hard on this project and we'll do the best we can." I stood up and walked back to my desk.

Later, I calld Antonia with the "great" news. She was mad. "For working 70 hour weeks they're offering you dinner and a hotel room? How about a $10,000 bonus!" I couldn't have agreed more.

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