Forum: Meetings, meetings, endless meetings

Digital Summit 2.0 needs sharp focus on getting things done

When it comes to meetings, there are two classes of people in this world. Those that love them and those that loathe them. I’m in the latter category, which I guess disqualifies me from any claim to work at a “strategic” level.

Process worker, me.

I’m not denying good things come from meetings, just that more and better things can be achieved in the same amount of time by staying on the job. And of course, some meetings are inevitable.

The Digital Summit 2.0 was inevitable, what with an election looming and all. This week Computerworld went out to industry leaders and asked them what they thought should be on the agenda (see page 12). It looks like there’s going to be an awful lot of ground to cover and a lot of contending interests to appease — or to subdue.

The main reason I don’t like meetings is that mostly they aren’t run very well. They go on, and on, and on and often nobody is taking minutes and people leave without anything on their to-do lists.

Digital Summit 2.0 will attract all sorts. While it is supposed to be “strategic” in nature, there will be sales people there, guarantee it, cosying up to clients and potential clients. There will be people grandstanding to get media attention. Those things are neither strategic not process, just opportunism and a fact of life.

So what I’d like to see from the summit is more in the nature of process, the simple process of running an effective meeting. I’d like to see, firstly, that every moment people take out of their day jobs to attend is used well. That means sharp presentations and well-run forums and working groups. That means every session has to be directly relevant to what the Summit is trying to achieve — whatever that may be. I remember going to one of these gabfests around 2000 and thinking, for instance, that some of the statistics being presented had little relevance to New Zealand.

I’d like to see people leaving the Summit with tangible benefits and with something they simply must follow up on and implement or explore.

I’d also like to see a serious stocktake of what came out of the last Summit. What has been achieved and what fell by the wayside and why?

For everyone thinking of attending, there will be an equation to calculate — they will have to consider how else they would have used those two days. Many smaller, creative, innovative companies — the ones the Summit is presumably designed to nurture — may well conclude they’d be better off spending that time coding, designing, marketing or holding different types of meetings, meetings focused on their own direct business development.

I’d like to think government policy has played a role in recent and evident growth in New Zealand’s domestic ICT industries, but I have a nagging feeling that in the long run, the example of the Sam Morgans, Rod Drurys and Selwyn Pelletts of this country will have a more lasting effect.

Needless to say, this meeting sceptic will be there.

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