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Have Albert Einstein Run Your Meetings

June 12, 2018

Did he say, “Everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler”?

Or was it, “Everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler”?

Or, maybe it was, “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”


He probably said at least one of them. And while the great physicist was talking about basic elements of the universe, he could have been talking about meetings.

I was once criticized, formally in an annual performance review, for having too few meetings. The quote was, “I’ve reviewed Rodney’s calendar and he has fewer meetings scheduled than his peers.” I got an extremely low review score, for this perceived inadequecy along with others of equally questionable application to my position.

The fact is meetings can be very useful. But, they can also be a drain, a bore, a waste of time. I work very hard to make sure my meetings are none of those.

The first way is that I don’t have a lot. I spent a lot of time on email and Skype talking to my team. Our business runs fast enough that often waiting for a meeting to make a decision is too late.

I have a few standing meetings. They are status meetings with the team that depends on me, and the team that I depend on. Those are two different teams. Still I run both meetings.

The standard length of my meetings is 30 minutes. Especially if it’s a standing meeting. I want people to show up. Almost everyone is dialing in, so I can’t bring doughnuts as a bribe. So, I figure, I’ll use as little time as possible of their day.

Now, mind you, these are not planning meetings, or design meetings. These are standing status meetings. A chance for me to tell the teams what I’m working on and find out where they are with the stuff they are working on.

I wish we started on time. I’m always on time. But, not everyone can be there right at the start. The first two or three minutes is me trying random jokes and light hearted comments on the people who showed up at the start. We get going at two minutes after the start. And we end. . .we always end at the scheduled ending time.

In the middle, I run. Literally I run the meeting and figuratively I run through the status. If I have more than can go into a meeting, I put it in an email.

If you come to one of my meetings, it’s going to be short and to the point. Just like Einstein taught.

I think his statement could be reworded:

Meetings should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

And we are now out of time. Meeting adjourned.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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