Wednesday, October 10, 2007

JFK taxi line and meetings

For once, my flight out of JFK seemed on time. The plane had arrived well in advance. All the passengers were in their seats, and the flight crew had locked the cabin door. So far, so good. My flight was to leave JFK at 7:15 PM and was supposed to arrive in Seattle 6 hours later. Our captain gets on the PA and announces that there is a good tail wind and we will make it to Seattle in 5 hours and 40 mins!! Wow, imagine my excitement. Forget being late, we are going to be home early! That put a grin on everyone's face.

The plane pulls out of the terminal on time and off we go onto the taxi way. I switched off my phone and my laptop. The plane taxis for about 5 mins and stops. Our captain comes on the PA and announces that he is going to turn the engines off to conserve energy and instructs that it is OK to use our electronic devices. He then announces that we are number 28 in line, and will take off shortly.

To make the story short, we take off at 8:40 PM and arrive in Seattle 40 mins late.

The main reason was that flights from morning started slipping and we, at the end of the day, ended up slipping way out. This reminded me of some of the days at the office. Almost every meeting that I attend starts to slip by a few mins. This starts to accumulate, especially if there are a few common participants, and finally the meetings in the afternoon are slipping by 30 mins or more.

Everybody complains that meetings are counter productive. There is some element of truth in this statement. The main reason being the way the meetings are run. Efficiently run meetings are always short and very productive.

Here is a nice article on Google's Marissa Mayer's philosophy on running efficient meetings. There is nothing earth shattering in her techniques. We all know that having a well published agenda goes a long way in running efficient meetings. What I liked most was the idea of projecting a countdown clock to remind everyone of the time left. All this assumes that the leader sticks to the clock. The second idea that I liked was the transcription. It would be great to see what the note taker is writing down. It is not always possible to have multiple projectors in a room, but this is a great idea. Saves a lot of time and keeps the meeting rolling along.

I have been to several meetings where no one knows what the agenda is. Everyone just lands up in the room because they were invited. Always have an agenda and publish it in advance so the audience knows what the meeting is about.

Meeting facilitation is the key to a successful meeting. A strong leader should direct the attendees towards the topics on the agenda and make sure that they don't digress. There are several players in a meeting:

- The leader (facilitator)
- Time keeper
- Note taker

The leader plays several roles here. The leader needs to make sure that the agenda is covered in totality, and everyone follows the agenda. The leader should also make sure that everyone in the room gets to share their thoughts. The leader should also summarize whenever a significant point/decision is made, or whenever an agenda topic is closed. The leader also sets the tone of the meeting.

Try some of these tips and see how productive your meetings become.