Saturday, July 12, 2008


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Dear Friends:

A Commander lives for results. The completion of his or her chosen mission is extraordinarily important. Learning from each step along the path to the attainment of the mission objective is important as well, but results are the reason for all actions.

Everything in business and politics is accomplished one-on-one, through bargaining, through compromise...occasionally through coercion. In a military operation, things are accomplished by a Commander giving orders, and the troops following them to the absolute best of their training and ability.

Somewhere in between the one-on-one and the military operation is that phenomenon called "THE MEETING." If a meeting is held between two persons, it is either a conversation, an interrogation, an instruction, a confrontation or a loving encounter. I won't discuss these dyad meetings here. For the purpose of this brief article, I will only address meetings which involve more than two individuals in a discussion forum (e.g., not a lecture).

Meetings are generally unproductive. Castle's Law dictates that, "the probability of success in a meeting is inversely proportional to the number of its participants."

Some general rules about meetings:

1. Limit the number of participants to the minimum required;

2. Keep the meeting as brief and focused as possible;

3. Have an agenda and an objective;

4. Limit any "free form" discussions to those required in order to make decisions in the meeting -- open brainstorming is inappropriate in most meetings, except where artistic concerns are being addressed;

5. Impose tight time constraints and order;

6. Every participant should leave the meeting with a clearer understanding of something, and with a directive for furtherance of the meeting's business;

7. Every meeting must have a leader or moderator;

8. Do not permit anyone to leave during the course of a meeting (unless it is an absolute emergency). Turn off telephones, eliminate all distractions and disruptions;

9. Invest your time in a meeting very prudently and efficiently;

10. Hold the meeting in an office or other closed, quiet space;

11. Maintain focus, intensity, momentum and wakefulness;

12. Do not permit food during a meeting;

13. Keep papers, documents and charts to a minimum at meetings - avoid superfluous papers, exhibits and other distractions.

Also, I would like to make a general comment: "Get acquainted" meetings are a strange exception to all of the foregoing guidelines. They take many unique forms. However, after the first such meeting, all meetings that follow should be governed in accordance with the guidelines outlined above.

Start your meetings promptly. Do not let anybody become too complacent or comfortable during a meeting.

Best of luck!


Douglas Castle


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