How productive are your meetings? Do you really spend more time discussing the major issues, or do you dwell on the trivial ones?
I’ve attended top-level meetings myself where busted lightbulbs—and other minor concerns that could have been delegated to the janitor—were discussed with passion.
That’s called the Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (PLOT), created by the man who likewise created the Parkinson’s Law, which I blogged about recently. His name: Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian and author of some 60 books.
PLOT means meetings/sessions give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.
Let’s say a steering committee meets to map out their strategies for their organization’s 70th anniversary. The members spend majority of their time with pointless discussions on easy-to-grasp issues which they debate endlessly: where to hold it; who should be invited; design of the advertising artwork; food to serve—forgetting the strategic issues.
We usually put the blame on the leader’s lack of facilitation skills, or on our fellow team member’s low intellect or competence, or both. We get frustrated and hope we slip into a coma so we are oblivious to it all.
Why do such meetings happen? According to Parkinson, it’s difficult to discuss hi-fallutin’ issues, and not many can contribute deep ideas that will wow others. So we confine ourselves to things we are comfortable with—with matching jokes and anecdotes that make others take notice.
A board of trustees meeting: 10 minutes discussing the proposed vision/mission strategy and 90 minutes on where and how to print/post the new vision/mission.
An annual planning session: 10 minutes on year-that-was review and 90 minutes on the slogan for next year.
A building committee meeting: 10 minutes on the budget of a one million-peso wing and 90 minutes on what to call it.
There are more.
The thing is, triviality is woven in the fabric of human nature. So when you go to a meeting dreading a PLOT, summon enough patience, put up with all the chit-chats about this and that, and beg God for grace so that you may be able to sit through it all without losing your good humor.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4: 2