Productive meetings

9 tips for running more productive meetings 43 Folders

This post I love! Edited highlights below:

"1 Circulate an agenda – An agenda should show the planned steps that get the meeting from “here” to “there.” It helps the participants prepare appropriately and anticipate the kind of information they might need to produce. It works as a contract: “here’s why this is a great use of your time for n minutes.”
2 Have a theme – Meetings shouldn’t be meandering tours of each participant’s frontal lobe (unless — well — unless that’s the actual agenda). Make it clear why this meeting is happening, why each person is participating at a given time, and then use your agenda to amplify how the theme will be explored or tackled in each section of the meeting.
3 Set (and honor) times for beginning, ending, and breaks – There’s nothing worse than a rudderless meeting that everyone knows will just prattle on until its leader gets tired of hearing himself talk.
4 No electronic grazing. Period. – Laptops closed. Phones off. Blackberries left back in the cube. You’re either at the meeting or you’re not at the meeting, and few things are more distracting or disruptive than the guy who has to check his damned email every five minutes.
5 Schedule guests
6 Be a referee and employ a time-keeper
7 Stay on target Any item that can be resolved between a couple people offline or that does not require the knowledge, consent, or input of the majority of the group should be scotched immediately. Close ratholes. As soon as the needed permission, notification, or task assignment is completed, just move on to the next item.
8 Follow up
9 Be consistent Meetings do not run themselves, and if you have any desire to make best use of valuable people’s time, you’ll need a firm hand and a lot of thoughtful planning."

My favourite part is the sentence about the Blackberries.

Giles G-B said…

10 – carry a big stick

This addition is not as facetious as it sounds. I have a friend who recently took a softball bat to a meeting and held it casually over hsi shoulder whilst he delivered a presentation about the need for everyone to follow a certain protocol within the organisation. He says folks paid attention without him needing to ask them to. And they’re following the new protocol to the letter.

8:36 PM

Maxine said…

Sounds like a good cure for those Blackberries, too!
(Signed, a Blackberry victim — by no means limited to meetings.)

7:19 AM


In the nested manner of blogging, 3quarksdaily reports on a New York Times article on a JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article*. Chilling:

"With all the tools available to modern medicine — the blood tests and M.R.I.’s and endoscopes — you might think that misdiagnosis has become a rare thing. But you would be wrong. Studies of autopsies have shown that doctors seriously misdiagnose fatal illnesses about 20 percent of the time. So millions of patients are being treated for the wrong disease.

As shocking as that is, the more astonishing fact may be that the rate has not really changed since the 1930’s. "No improvement!" was how an article in the normally exclamation-free Journal of the American Medical Association summarized the situation.

This is the richest country in the world — one where one-seventh of the economy is devoted to health care — and yet misdiagnosis is killing thousands of Americans every year.
How can this be happening? And how is it not a source of national outrage?
A BIG part of the answer is that all of the other medical progress we have made has distracted us from the misdiagnosis crisis."

This extract pitches the story as a "national" outrage that thousands of "Americans"(by which I presume the writer means US residents, as opposed to Canadians, Brazilians, Argentinians, etc) are being killed by misdiagnosis every year. I am sure it is not just a US problem, though. Cold comfort indeed.

Accuracy of language aside, there is a spirited defence of the medical system in the comments (by an anonymous person):

"Comparing the diagnoses of myriads of diseases that afflict the human body with flying a commercial airliner is simply specious: no matter how complex the airliner, it was built by man, with every aspect of its construction, its parts and its operation documented and detailed.

By contrast, a physician sees a patient with limited information and a very limited amount of time (no thanks to the health insurance system), and is then expected to deliver near-perfect diagnoses about just what is wrong. Should I add that they are also expected to do this while keeping the admittedly soaring healthcare costs under control?

Physicians and surgeons make mistakes because they are overworked, under-resourced, and have limited amounts of time with each patient. But even more importantly, mistakes occur because the myriad human diseases each have myriad presentations, many that are basically (overlapping) non-specific symptoms. Should physicians send every patient who comes in with a splitting headache off for a CT to rule out a brain tumor? "

So the situation is that more people are being saved by modern medicine than were saved 100 years ago, but that because medicine is now technical and sophisticated, the definition of "mistake" has become more elastic. See my post below about ability to operate new technology as one gets older and has to forget old knowledge and relearn new, over and over again. Must be hard for doctors to keep up. What "anonymous" is pointing out is that the baseline is much better, even with errors (if they can be called errors when they might be things like not ordering every possible test for every possible condition for every presenting patient) taken into account.

* There is no JAMA article. I read the NYT article, after having to register for their site (they require personal info), and found it a string of anecdotes with an unreferenced one-word quote from JAMA somewhere in the middle. No context. No year, even. Low-standard journalism (not to mention zero marks for scholarship).

Dave Lull said…

The "No improvement" quotation is from this article:

Low-Tech Autopsies in the Era of High-Tech Medicine by George D. Lundberg, JAMA, Oct. 14, 1998.

It’s linked to from this article: How Often Are Patients Misdiagnosed? which is linked to from the article you quote from; the link is near the bottom of the page below some ads and under the heading "Related Articles."

6:35 AM

Dave Lull said…

"No context. No year, even. Low-standard journalism (not to mention zero marks for scholarship)."

And no link to the JAMA article right at the place of quotation. Zero marks for saving the time of the reader. To find it I used Google to travel a circuitous path that took me back to the NYTimes website. Then I had to backtrack to find it’s connection to the article you quote from. BTW I think the first NYTimes reference to it at least on the web was in this article:

Buried Answers, by David Dobbs, published: April 24, 2005.

Mr Dobbs refers to it more fully than Mr Leonhardt but doesn’t link to a copy of it:

"Dr. George Lundberg, a pathologist who edited The Journal of the American Medical Association from 1982 until 1999 and now edits the online medical journal Medscape General Medicine, has, like Schiller, spent much of his career trying to revive the autopsy. The heart of his plaint is that nothing reveals error like the autopsy. As Lundberg noted in a 1998 article, numerous studies over the last century have found that in 25 to 40 percent of cases in which an autopsy is done, it reveals an undiagnosed cause of death. Because of those errors, in 7 to 12 percent of the cases, treatment that might have been lifesaving wasn’t prescribed. (In the other cases, the disease might have advanced beyond treatment or there might have been multiple causes of death.) These figures roughly match those found in the first discrepancy studies, done in the early 1910’s. ‘No improvement!’ Lundberg notes. ‘Low-tech autopsy trumps high-tech medicine . . . [Mr Dobbs’ ellipses] again and again.’"

3:31 PM

Maxine said…

Thank you for these clarifications, Dave. You have been more assiduous than the journalist or editor appears to have been.

What strikes me most about your research is the fact that the quoted JAMA phrase was written in 1998, 7 years ago. The distinct impression given in the NYT piece is that this is "news". The NYT piece does not actually lie, but comes pretty close.

(The Dobbs piece you cite is more accurate, making the source, and its date, plain. However, the extract you have given here, Dave, can hardly be used to make the point being made in the NYT piece, can it?! Some extrapolation, to use that piece, and quote about that piece about autopsies showing undiagnosed illnesses, to support the points the NYT article made about doctors’ errors.)

I am already very cynical about accuracy of media, so I am not entirely surprised about the laziness of the whole thing. (The commenter on the blog post is more knowledgeable than the NYT journalist, which makes me wonder if the NYT guy bothered to interview any working doctors before he wrote his piece.)

When I "grew up" and learned a few things, I was struck by how TV and most newspapers invariably get wrong a report on anything one happens to know anything about. So I don’t trust them on what I don’t know about either!

3:46 PM

Dave Lull said…

Based on part (/22leonhardt-side.html) of the URL for the article How Often Are Patients Misdiagnosed? I’d say that Mr Leonhardt also wrote that. He attempts to bring Dr Lundberg’s article’s relevance up to date by concluding that short piece with "[Dr Lundberg] said recently that it still reflected his views."

4:16 PM

Making technology simple

Making technology simple

I couldn’t agree more with this posting by Niall Kennedy on his weblog:

"In our quest for the latest and greatest technologies we may be overlooking the masses of users waiting for technologies to enrich their lives.
My mom’s a blogger but doesn’t know it. She passes along chain mail and jokes to family and friends on an almost daily basis. Each week she updates everyone who’s interested on the latest news from my brother in Iraq. Both activities are ideally suited for blogs and syndication, but it’s easier for her to fire off an e-mail to 25 people with her latest funny joke or piece of chain mail than connect to everyone through a blog or reader.
My 18 year-old sister has never used MySpace, Facebook, or Xanga. Her social networking app is a cell phone she carries everywhere, including sending text messages from her bed. She creates content using still cameras and video, but never shares the content online because she finds the process too complicated. It’s easier to connect her video camera to a TV than to send it to a video sharing site.
As geeks we put up with all the complexities to explore a new service but most of the world just wants to plugin something that works. "

I would go further than Niall, actually. I am pretty above-average technical, and laughed when I brought my first video recorder (1980?) at those jokes about people asking their children to work it for them. But I’ve turned into one of those people. I can’t work the DVD recorder without reading the manual (and forgetting how to do it next time). Not that this matters because the fate of anything I did manage to record would be for it to sit on the shelf with the 100 or so DVDs waiting for me to watch "one day". Another example: I used to be a keen photographer. I took thousands of b&w pictures and developed them myself, using all kinds of techniques. Yet I can’t work a modern digital camera. By the time I’ve worked it out, the technology evolves and a yet new type of device is out there, cheaper than before. Another: I have to have the most simple mobile phone possible. I have been forced to use a colour screen but no camera as yet. I am amazed at the "integrated" phone/internet/TV goodness knows what mini-handsets that people have nowadays and could not imagine coping with it. But I am not a technophobe, I would like to be adept at this stuff, but I am not prepared to put in the amount of time it would take me to learn how to use all these things.

I am not sure I agree with Niall Kennedy about the younger generation. Cathy (15) is adept with MySpace, mobile phone, email, applications like powerpoint — Jenny (10) similarly uses excel, Flickr and even photoshop with confidence. Both girls have blogs (and both can work the DVD recorder with ease).

What am I saying here? Niall is right. All over the web, via rss or whatever, one reads about fantastic little bits of programming or great applications to do wonderful things — search, retrieve, categorise, share, send, organise information. Just go to the Firefox or Technorati homepage, or read some library blogs, and dozens of ideas for great things to do come to mind. But for the "normal" user, by which I mean technically able but not an infotechnical professional, too much time investment is required to work out how to use all these developments.

There must be a market for an interface between all the "geeky" suggestions and the "non-geeky but keen" users. Online help! Of course there are plenty of user-friendly applications out there — Connotea, Flickr et al. But at the "below product" level, there is huge scope for spreading and accelerating the use of ICT developments by — well, dammit, just explaining how to use and apply these bits of programmes or cute little tools in language that we can all understand.

Movies over the internet, though, that’s something I can get my head round. When are we going to get enough broadband (or whatever the technical term is if not that) to be able to look at a menu of TV shows we missed, or a movie database, select one, and watch it on our computer screens, when and where we like? I think even I could work that. And it would get rid of the piles and shelves-full of DVDs and videos littering the house. (Yes, Superpatron, like the books, uncategorised.)

Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste – Review of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste

Here is a review of Captain Alatriste, the book which forms the basis of Viggo Mortensen’s upcoming film (picture on a previous posting).

The brothers Judd did not like the book that much, though they gave it a B+. I have had the book on my shelves for almost a year so-far unread. It is the kind of book that I would have read when young as I always enjoyed books like this (Dumas and his ilk — I read Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda and sequel Rupert of Hentzau several times each). But I haven’t read any adventure, swashbuckling novels for years and years. Wonder if I will dip my toe in this water again. Brothers Judd aren’t very encouraging.

Frank Wilson said…

Ah, Maxine, you are a true romantic. Some of the happiest moments of my youth were spent in the company of Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D’Artagnan. I reviewed Captain Alatriste and liked it. It is a thoughtful swashbuckler, with something of the melancholy that characterizes Twenty Years After.

1:53 AM

Back to square one

eyThanks are due to Dave Lull for his nice email about my correction to apostrophes.

And thanks also to James Long for putting me onto the right track for getting rid of those bullet points in the sidebar that were crashing into the text of the postings. James is a kind and patient colleague who told me: "I think what you’ve done is accidentally remove the reference to the sidebar styles, li, and so the sidebar has reverted to default html styles for list items in an unordered list, ul ."

Of course this doesn’t mean that I knew what to do with the code, so I set up a new blog, opened its template, and compared the html line by line until I found differences. Eventually, I found the bit I had inadvertently deleted, and all is back as it was! (Actually, not quite, there are still some bullet points in the sidebar but that’s OK as they are not clashing into anything. And I can probably do the same thing to get rid of them in due course.)

Thank you, James. James has also told me about a crime-fiction series author Tony Hillerman. He says: "It’s a nice long series, so if you start near the beginning (‘Skinwalkers’, ‘Thief of Time’) you’re in for a treat as the characters develop really well across the series." OK James, thank you, I will go off to Amazon now and have a look.

Although I am happy, I am back to where I was before I started this attempt at tagging this blog. So I haven’t got anywhere except to back where I started (pretty much). But that’s fine, I’ll attack the tagging in a more careful way again soon. (I’ll use the Dave Lull approach of thinking carefully before doing anything.)

Frank Wilson said…

But that’s what makes blogging such fun, discovering how to fix problems like that — and you went about in an admirably systematic way.
Go easy on yourself about the misspelling. I too am an editor — and a pretty school speller. But it is hard to edit oneself. One tends to see what one intended to write. Which is why, when I write, I have myself edited by someone else.

1:58 AM

Jenny D said…

Yeah, I think the fun of blogging involves not being quite so careful as we would be with other kinds of writing–sometimes I don’t even read back through, and there are often minor errors of punctuation or typos or whatever. No big deal.

NB in my opinion Tony Hillerman is a terribly overrated author! His books have always felt really thin to me, just underwritten; it’s possible that some of the early ones in the series were considerably better, but they leave me with a bad taste, also because I’m not positive I like their handling of the reservation/Indian stuff. I will be curious to hear what you think, in any case. I do know lots of people who like them, just not me…

6:57 PM


A bad night. Not only did I spell apostrophe wrong, which is a careless thing to do, but I have got spots all down the side of Petrona which clash into the text in the most horrible way.

I was trying out some of the kind suggestions about how to tag in response to my recent query on Chicken Yoghurt’s site. Naturally this involved a bit of editing in the html. I have obviously inadvertently told the html to make all these bullet-points, but I cannot find out how. I am going to give up now becuase it is late, but if anyone is reading this, apologies for the messy look. I sure hope that one of these days I will be able to fix it.

I am going to find an html textbook and see what codes for bullet-points, then try to remove that code from the Petrona template. Unless a better idea occurs to me.

Returning to the apostrophe, Dave Lull, who is a serious source of information for Books, Inq, not only let me know I had spelt the word wrong (twice), but kindly offered me a let-out by demonstrating that Shakespeare spelt it with an "a" (and a few other letters mixed up too). However, although I am very touched by Dave’s chivalry, Shakespeare was a notorious poor speller, so I don’t let myself off the hook for that. Shakespeare was a writer, and writers are allowed to spell badly as they are creative geniuses. (Especially Shakespeare.) Editors aren’t, or they’d be out of a job.

So I am not doing well tonight. Maybe things will look better in the morning, and I’ll be able to get some time to address those bullet points at the weekend.

Hoarders’ reward

mediabistro: GalleyCat: Borders To Reward, Er, Hoarders (of Books)

"Earlier this week, the Borders book/music/video retail chain announced a new customer incentive program called Borders Rewards. Apparently, if you’re a card-carrying member, and you spend more than $50 any given month, you’ll be granted a ‘Personal Shopping Day’ where you can go in and claim yourself a 10% discount.

Even more appealing, though, is the ‘Holiday Savings Rewards’ account, into which five percent of all your purchases is deposited for credits that you can use on purchases from mid-November to mid-January.

Of course, I remember when that sort of thing used to be called by a different name, and I’m betting Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly do, too — so it’s probably for the best that Borders waited until after last year’s fake ‘war on Christmas’ faded into oblivion before announcing their program."

Good idea. I have an Amazon Mastercard becuase you get 15 UK pounds for every (?) pounds you spend. Unfortunately they give you this as Amazon gift vouchers. Every time you try to spend the vouchers the 15 pound discount disappears between invoice and amount being debited, so you have to go rounds with Amazon’s pretty labyrinthine customer service pages, which are designed to put you off from ever being able to send them an email. Then when you finally do find the one way through to click and send an email, you get a meaningless reply from a no-reply account and have to go through the whole thing again. After a few rounds of this, each time being replied to by a different customer services adivsor (from India I assume, as the names are invariably Indian names), they sort it out, but it does take persistence.

So if Borders "rolls out" this incentive to the UK, I’m all for trying it!

British Book Awards

British Book Awards

The nominations for the WH Smith book of the year have been made at the link above. You can vote on that site. Predictably, "Extreme" is on there (Frank Wilson of Books, Inq. will be pleased). So are some other books, but there is only one that deserves to win — Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I haven’t read any of the other 5 books on the list and can’t imagine ever wanting to. What on earth is up with whoever chose the shortlist? (Apart from the Osbourne, there is Piers Morgan’s "autobio" – ex-Editor of the Daily Mirror; a Jamie Oliver cookbook; an autobio (?) of recently deceased DJ John Peel and "the world according to Jeremy Clarkson" — a TV personality (he does not seem to be that rude interviewer*, but nevertheless some a sort of TV personality).

Well, can there be any shadow of a doubt? No contest. They might have thought up a bit more decent opposition — what a feeble selection. JKR should win as the book of2005 whatever else is on the shortlist, of course, but winning might mean more if there were some other good books for her to be up against.

*Have remembered, his name is Jeremy Paxton. See earlier posting on podcasts.

Oyster catcher

London Underground Tube Diary – Going Underground’s Blog

What a story! (Link above).

"And the next witness is…….. an Oystercard

Suspicious partners use Oystercard to track infidelities. Ian sent me a link to an article in Sunday’s Independent, about how people were using Oystercard to track their partner’s travel movements.

"Oyster cards, the ‘smart’ little blue thing in London commuters’ wallets that enable them to travel at will around the capital, have another, unexpected function. They could also be a one-way ticket to the divorce courts."

As your every journey is recorded on an Oystercard it seems a great way to spy on your partner if you are that way inclined. ‘The electronic lipstick-on-the-collar is revealed to anyone – the holder or their partner – who takes the card to a machine on the Underground or keys in its serial number on a website to get a read-out of every journey taken in the past 10 weeks.’

One private investigator said: ‘Oyster cards won’t tell you that the bloke’s been cheating on his wife, but it will show if he’s been in one part of town when he’s supposed to be somewhere else. It is an easy thing to confront your partner with. It doesn’t look like you’ve been snooping around too much.’ "

The post continues at the link above, complete with picture of Oyster card with lipstick kiss (clicheville).

I can’t use an Oyster card becuase I live in zone 6 and the cards are good only for zones 1 to 4. It is deeply untrendy to live this far out of the centre — to be cool you either have to live right in the hub of the metropolis or really far out of London altogether, eg little village in Kent or Hertforshire or, if money is no object, Henley or some Oxfordshire village.

It is beginning to sound as if zone 6 is actually a pretty safe place to live.

Mind you, the post on London Undeground blog over-eggs the pudding a bit at the end:

"However, it looks like your Oystercard may become even more "useful", as through the article I learnt that Oystercard planners are trying to enable Oystercard holders to pay for their shopping in nearly 4,000 shops with their cards. "The records of where a person has shopped, as well as where they have travelled, will then be stored on the card." So then you’ll not only be able to see where you might be cheated on, but what your partner is buying their lover too!"


The big news over the weekend that the actor Ben Kingsley apparently insists on including his title "Sir" in his movie billing has of course caused a spate of letters to the paper about how non-British people mistook various titles for first names, etc. Today a correspondent reminded us of Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Sir C Aubrey Smith, "without at least one of whom no Hollywood epic of the Thirties or Forties would have been conisdered complete." Hmmmm.

But I found another letter on the topic more poignant. In full, it reads:

"Sir, The most risible example known to me of a title mistaken for a name occurred in the racially segregated prewar American South.

A popular brand of rolling tobacco was called Prince Albert. As the face on the tin was unmistakeably white, shopkeepers required their black customers to refer to it as "Mr Prince Albert".

Shame. Profound shame.