Another tidbit from my astute colleague at JPL, Dr. Lynne Cooper, Knowledge Strategist (such a great title):

To continue the dialogue about meetings, I think it’s almost a useless word, because every time a group of people come together to collaborate it gets labeled a “meeting” even though there are many shades of meaning. When I schedule “meetings” I intentionally differentiate between work sessions, get-in-synch sessions, peer review sessions, reporting, etc. – each with different expectations for behavior. Would love to get into a debate on this because I feel it’s important and a lot of the “wisdom” about how to conduct meetings is based on an antiquated, management-centric view of meetings rather than a work-centric view of collaboration.

She's not going to get much of a debate from me as I agree, wholeheartedly. Expectations about behavior are crucial to meeting preparation, and to the ultimate dynamic of the meeting. That said, why is it that it's so hard to have people prepare for a meeting (i.e., send out an agenda, block time in advance to gather needed materials and read background information)? My theory is that it is difficult to see the return on investment of planning our work process (we have little visualization). We don't have hard evidence or numbers (PayScale's Meeting Miser provides a basic (very basic) calculator of meeting cost.) around the importance of preparation; left in the abstract, we are unlikely to have a trigger that says this must be done.

Lynne's perspective drives home the point that there should be no meeting without a true goal. If you can't describe what's to be done (work session, get-in-synch, etc.), then you're not yet ready for the session. If you don't know the goal, then you can't provide the description and/or an agenda, and the participants have no way of coming prepared. You are doomed. As per my prior post, we are all systems designers -- a "meeting" is part of that system. Effective systems designers start with the definition of requirements (even if it is to just say "Generate new ideas for proposal"). Systems muddlers begin unprepared and end-up costing the organization rather than providing benefits. Prior thoughts on meeting management: Better conf calls, Notetaking in face to face meetings.