No one who has worked in big corporates would have escaped the tyranny of conference calls. Initially, I was all enthusiastic. It seemed like a brilliant way to connect, and the company provides all kinds of numbers to call in to, passcodes and stuff as well, making me feel very important. It is a well established ritual that the moment a project is announced, the leader immediately forms a team that is cross-functional, multi-locational, multi-dimensional, anti-solutional, and includes everybody who is anybody and many people who have no relation to the project, on the team. Seldom is an invitation to join a project team rejected - it is, after all, with its multi-locational and multi-functional advantages, something that is expected to advance your career. Everyone approaches his first conference call with great enthusiasm.
And then, realization slowly dawns...
It is not all that it's touted to be,
It is one more way to just keep busy.
Normal meetings pale in comparison,
the virtual ones are truly truly scary!
In my long career I have had many occasions to participate in conference calls, and provide below some insights from my experiences.
I would love to receive some of your own insights as well...
The truths of conference calls
The number of people attending bears no relation to the importance of the subject.
The number of possible interactions increases exponentially with the number of people. Not a real risk, since the inclination to pay attention and contribute too drops exponentially.
There is a lot of time spent on crossing the "i's" and dotting the "t's"
Everyone has to pause after every half an hour to come on to the same page - it takes half an hour each time.
It's like playing musical chairs with the number of chairs being one more than the number of players. The game never ends.
Each participant marches to the beat of a different drummer. The group thus marches towards a solution.
Repeating the question is an acceptable answer.
Repeating the answer leads to a new question.
Both questions and answers are repeated in the next call.
Forming a committee to set up a task force which can think about how to set up a timetable to frame the scope is a good action item for the first call.
You are excused if you suspect that not everyone is speaking English.
One meets to call - One calls to meet.
A process by which one starts with a clear solution and ends with a confusing problem.
A computer would need an infinite iterative loop to program this.
A forum where everyone competes to show his lack of understanding.
One-tenth of the work expands to fill ten times the time allotted.
Every employee's chance to star in a soap opera.
Extensive use of technology for intensive debilitation of the mind.
Everyone thanks everyone else, all the time.
Clarity of objective is not the objective.