Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Meeting Tracker First Pass

I dislike meetings. I make that pretty clear to anyone that wants to listen. So anytime an opportunity arises to expose meetings for what they really are (99% waste) I jump at the challenge to qualify/quantify how terrible meetings can be. In my 14 year professional career I have sat in numerous meetings. I can remember 2 meetings total that actually brought value and one of them was a 3 day working meeting to solve a very specific problem. I'd probably call that a focused collaboration session but it was billed as a meeting.

So where do we go from here? Well in the past I have created meeting waste calculators and created a meeting buzzword tracker. Me and a friend were chatting the other day and he knew I had created a calculator and he wanted the link. I sent it over. After some normal I hate meetings banter I mentioned I need to work on my meeting buzzword tracker. Like most of my projects I cobbled something together quickly without thinking about flexibility/scale-ability and such.

The meeting buzzword tracker was written for a single, very specific dataset I wanted to collect. How many times was the word project mentioned in our standard weekly team meeting? So I sent the link to my buddy and then he asks this question which pretty much sparked the remaining of this blog post: "How do I adjust the meeting tracker for the guy who fell asleep?"

Couple things. 1) Notice how he called the website by the wrong name, meeting tracker instead of meeting buzzword tracker....ding ding ding... 2) How do I track various things that happen in a this case a count of all the people that fell asleep

My response to this question was "perhaps we have a few counters you can tick".

He responded. "We need a scoring system for meetings, buzzwords, people nodding off, snores, nose picks, etc." BOOM! and now we are off and running.

After some more back and forth I decided to email some folks in the lame meeting world to get some more feedback. Several responses later and we now have the Meeting Tracker 1.0 system in development.

Meeting Info

First we collect some standard meeting info: Meeting Name, Date/Time, Duration in minutes, and the Buzzword. The buzzword is a word you want to track the frequency of during your meeting. As mentioned earlier I used to track the word project. We once had a meeting where project was mentioned 32 times in about a 25 minute span. It was glorious.


Next we have a standard set of counters. These are the various counters you want to track. Here is our current list.

  • Sleepers - Count of the people falling asleep or nodding off during the meeting
  • Pickers - Count of people picking their nose in the meeting
  • Boomers - Count of people over 50 in the meeting, typically slowing the meeting down
  • Offliners - Count of people asking questions that are off topic and extending the meeting
  • Surfers - Count of people surfing the internet, checking email on their devices instead of listening. These are the people that ask questions about stuff answered 5 minutes ago
  • Outsiders - Count of the number of auditors or consultants that do not work for the company


We added a series of conditions to track during the meeting. These are yes/no true/false type conditions about the meeting. Here is our current list.

  • Start Late - Meeting starts after scheduled time
  • Finish Late - Meeting goes longer than scheduled time
  • Just the Two of us - meeting could have been a face to face conversation instead of a 10 person meeting
  • Echo - Meeting was covered in a memo or email before the meeting
  • No Lunch - meeting was scheduled during typical lunch hour but no food is provided
  • Double booked - you or the meeting venue itself are double booked
  • Meetingception - another meeting was scheduled as a result of this meeting or the whole purpose of this meeting was to setup another meeting


Then we came up with a set of bonus points. These items remove points from our overall Meeting score. We will talk more about the scoring system below.

  • No talk - You make it the entire meeting without saying a word
  • Food - There is food at the meeting
  • No Action - You have no action items as a result of this meeting
  • Early finish - The meeting finished before scheduled duration
  • Cancelled - the meeting was cancelled. 

Scoring System

Now that we had a series of metrics I started assigning values to the various metrics. For the counter section we assign a value to the counter and then just multiply the count by the value to get the metric for that meeting. For conditions I just assigned a value to each condition based off my own personal biases for how bad the various condition effects the overall meeting score. Finally for kickers I added points back for various items. Therefore kickers are negative numbers.

After the math we are left with a Meeting Score representing how terrible the meeting is. The higher the number the worse the meeting. Since whole numbers are not really cool I decided to create a variable to multiple the final score by. I call this variable the Inherent Terribleness of Meetings in General (ITMG coefficient). Right now the ITMG coefficient is 1.73123.

Below is a snapshot of the current values along with 3 sample meetings.

So for our sample meetings, Meeting 3 is the worst at 328.93. 

We probably need to tweak things a bit, and I need to track some meetings with the web app to see how it works on mobile devices. I am thinking I also need to create a PDF sheet that you can print and take to the meeting. That way you can just track the data in the meeting and then record it in the system at a later date. You don't want to have to add yourself to the Offliners count.


So I am all ears on Suggestions and feedback. Can you think of some more counters, conditions, or kickers for the meetings? Have any suggested value tweaks for the metrics above? Have a meeting war story to share? Send them my way.

I think meeting duration should play a role some how. So the longer the meeting the worse the meeting. I may add that into our scoring system somewhere. Do you have any other ideas?


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