The Modern Meeting

I am an early riser. It is not unusual for me to wake around 4:30 to 5:00 am and either read, or practice on my silent guitar or irritate my current Congressmen over the internet.

So it was of little concern to me when our European colleagues scheduled a teleconference at 7:00 am in the morning. I am even more fortunate in that I have an extremely reasonable commute to the office. On a good day, I enter my car arriving at my desk within 25 minutes. On a bad traffic day, the same process might take 40 minutes.

I’m not certain how this may sound to some. But in the suburbs of New York City, let me tell you, what I’ve just described is the equivalent of rolling out of bed.

However, and having said all of that, the process of ensuring your posterior is optimally positioned for work related efforts by or before 7:00 in the morning needs to be considered beforehand if one is accustomed to smoothing on in to work after 7:30 or so.

And so it was. Although I had planned on leaving the house at 6:00 (just because I like to think and plan in round numbers) and was about 6 or 7 minutes late, my arrival, including powering my laptop and ensuring its operational status found both me, with my posterior following close behind, at 6:35. More than enough time to make a cup of coffee and respond to a handful of emails prior to our 7:00 am witching hour.

And so, the WebEx link was clicked and the logon was effected. Then, courtesy of a headset, the required number was dialed and, as if by magic, a conference call was established involving local folks, domestic colleagues and our colleagues in Europe.

However, a key figure on our team, the one member upon whom the very rationale behind scheduling this teleconference was based, was nowhere to be found. The remaining members of the call, roughly six or so, found ourselves conversing about the weather and vacations and pending weekend activities, virtually twiddling our thumbs while collectively waiting for the shoe to drop.
Our protagonist never did impose his virtual presence into the fray and so we continued to wait.

Bear in mind there were several of us locals who were markedly less than enthusiastic about being there at that ungodly hour in the first place.

After a fair amount of thumb twiddling our Italian teleconference leader threw his virtual hands in the air and announced to the rest of us, “Ah. Wella. It a looksa lahk a Billa heeza not a show up. I’m a think mebbe ah reschedule, eh?”

And so the rest of us silently acquiesced hoping the next schedule would reflect as neither overly early, particularly on a Monday, nor overly late, particularly on a Friday. It turned out to be neither. The meeting was rescheduled for 10:00 later that morning.

But as we locals hung up from the call at precisely 7:15 that morning, there were a few audible laughs accompanied by a few headset tossings that had emanated from behind our cubicle walls.

The reasons for the laughter? A couple. First of all, we had to laugh at our own irony for catering to an early morning demand in order to accommodate our European colleagues only to get shot down for our own consideration. Secondly the shear Snafu of it all appealed to the sublime sense of the absurd in many of us.

The fact that we and our collective project represented the daily norm was missed by no one. First there was going to be one very large document to accommodate all the facets of the project. Then a decision was somehow delivered where each segment of the project would be represented by its own document. Then there would be a consolidation of the more logical pieces. Then there was input required from other colleagues from other countries. However they were slow in responding because they had so much on their plate. Then executive decisions needed to be made. However this VP or that Director was on vacation for a couple weeks or so.

Teleconferences were scheduled and expanded and contracted and moved and shuffled and participants were added but not informed. Sometimes the teleconferencing technology didn’t function properly.

And now we have a key player who, for whatever reason, was invisible to us. Was he not invited? Did he forget? Was he just not into it?

My mantra for the last several years is simple: “I get paid.”

They want me to warm a chair earlier than usual for no good reason? Fine. I get paid.

They want me to wait and make up ways to look busy while information slowly flows in my direction?

Fine. I get paid.

Yet somehow, there does lurk the barest hint of the professional in some of us that allow us the fantasy of our substantive input and value.

I get paid.