Tag Archives: Meetings

Junior Sales Rep’s ducks very much not in a row

A junior Pharmaceutical Sales Rep has found themselves in hot water after admitting that they didn’t understand a key piece of business terminology.  Sam Watkins, 21, was making notes in a team meeting, when his manager emphasized the importance of “getting their ducks in a row”.

“I’m not sure what came over me, but instead of just writing it down, I piped up and asked what that meant,” explains Sam. “I immediately wished the ground would swallow me up.”

His colleague Phil witnessed the awkward moment: “You really do hate to see that from a new hire. Just Google it later! Managers spend their whole time saying strange business things, you’ve just got to get used to it.”

Meanwhile Sam’s manager was slightly put out by the question.  “I mean, what do these kids learn in university these days? Next he’ll be telling me he doesn’t know what synergy is!”

As a result of his misstep, Sam is currently undergoing a remedial crash course in business jargon. “At first I was skeptical,” he reports, “but now that we’ve dealt with the low-hanging fruit, we’ll soon be back in the black.”

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Less meeting, more doing

In the early years of my career I seemed to spend all my days in meetings, one after the other from nine to five.  In general a lot was said, but all too often I found that too little was achieved, with the resultant verbatim Minutes document a poor substitute for the actual minutes lost along the way.

The potential people-hour cost of meetings has been noted elsewhere, with Harvard Business Review estimating recently that one company’s weekly meeting was taking up 300,000 people-hours per year!

This frittering of time always bothered me, with so much time spent merely meeting people, most of whom we probably already knew!  That is why in 2009, when I was in a more senior position, I implemented a seismic change in my company’s working culture, transitioning from Meetings to Do-ings.

While this may appear to be a basic change in company lexicon, it actually had a profound effect on the daily productivity of the business.  Suddenly the focus was on what would be done, as opposed to who would be there.  Where previously we were emphasizing the communal aspect, we were now all about what would be achieved while we were together.

This cultural change organically developed, altering the whole Do-ing occasion within the business.  Where previously we received meeting invites, we started receiving Do-vites.  Conference calls became Done-ference calls, and Minutes became Done-things.  With each definitional change, we saw a boost in our KPIs, from employee productivity to operating margin.

While we do still spend lots of time together discussing things as a team, we are no longer wishing the time away.  So perhaps next time you find yourself confronted with a directionless meeting agenda, you might move your focus from Meeting to Doing.

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