Have you ever been a part of the “meeting after the meeting?” You know, the one where colleagues get together to debrief a meeting that’s recently taken place? The “meeting after the meeting” (MATM) typically includes two main agenda items: the debrief and the re-plan. First, attendees debrief to try to identify what actually took place or got achieved in the first meeting. Then they re-plan and schedule a new meeting, the purpose of which is to accomplish the progress or goals that should have been achieved in the first. Such a colossal waste of time, having multiple meetings when one should have sufficed!

2015.01.14 CriticalThinker_MtgSchedulePrivy to more of these MATMs than I’d care to admit, I’d hypothesize that (if you’ve worked in Corporate America) you also have attended one or more of these meetings yourself. Why do they happen? When people let their busy schedules do the driving, it’s easy to end up just reacting to the calendar.

Who’s got time to THINK?!

In these “agile times”, when an entire release gets done in a week or two, there’s sometimes a perception that it’s not acceptable to wait 3 weeks?! to book a meeting. To get around that lead time, we start to plug “placeholder” meetings onto the calendar ahead of time, to make sure that people we’re going to need reserve their time for us; “we’ll update the agenda as we get closer.”

But how often do people go back and update the invite with that agenda? Not so much. With our calendars full of time slots blocked, we run from session to session with nary a thought about what we’re supposed to discuss or why. We are hard-pressed to prepare ahead of time, but everyone still attends! Certainly no one ever cancels or declines a meeting – there’s always something the group needs to talk about, after all. We’ll figure it out on the fly: “Why waste the time we have scheduled!”

2015.01.14 CriticalThinker_HamsterUnfortunately, that time IS wasted. After the meeting falls flat — and it always will, given that situation — more time must be spent to regroup, re-plan, meet again. Without taking the time to think about upcoming collaborations or to plan for their effectiveness, we end up costing ourselves and our colleagues double- or triple-time. We continue to go round and round like hamsters on the wheel, stuck in our cycle of too-many-meetings but not-enough-time.

Schedule Time for Critical Thinking!

If you suffer from this kind of a crazy meeting schedule or a heavy project load, you’ve probably said to someone at some point, “I’m so busy, I just can’t think!” To regain our balance and fight the pressures of a busy schedule, we go on auto-pilot. Some set small goals and at least “get stuff done.” We run from meeting to meeting, we check task after task off the list, we try to feel accomplished. But accomplishment implies that a certain level of quality and achievement was realized as a result of all the “stuff” you got done. Is there an impact, then, when our schedules lack in time or ability to think?

2015.01.14 CriticalThinker_ThinkerIf you’re a business analyst — absolutely, making time to think matters! The most critical accomplishment for a business analyst is to “enable the organization to achieve its goals”. To achieve this, BAs must be able to provide capabilities or create conditions that the business does not currently have at its disposal. As a part of doing that, we work to “understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization” and “recommend solutions” (BABOK®). To get that kind of significant stuff done, you need time to “get your head around it.” Time to process, look at your information from all angles, interpret…there needs to be something more on your schedule besides meetings. You need to carve out time — significant time — to think!

Why? “Critical thinking is essential if we are to get to the root of our problems and develop reasonable solutions. After all, the quality of everything we do is determined by the quality of our thinking.”1

Find out more in Part 2 of this blog series!

– Kate

Need help making a happy agenda? Check out our template for a Happy Meeting Box to add to your meeting invitation.

1Foundation for Critical Thinking, http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/our-mission/405

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