All-hands conference call

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Conference Call Anatomy
“We’ll just give it another five minutes to allow people to join”.

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The notion that gathering 17 people around the world to stop what they’re doing and listen to someone run through a spreadsheet for an hour and a half is in some way a sensible idea.

Made insufferably worse if the group gets through the agenda more quickly than expected and the call leader, who has been droning in a Jersey monotone for 47 minutes, says, “okay, we still have twenty-five minutes left ...” or “I’m conscious that time is precious” as if sitting on your tedious conference call isn’t the worst conceivable use of anyone’s time, patience or goodwill.

The worst kind of conference call, with countless participants, redundantly representing all different walks of departmental life, each to donate an hour of their sorry existence in deference of the great dogma and the cast iron guarantee that nothing will be achieved beyond ratcheting the tedium and entropy in the organisation ever nearer that threshold of boredom heat death at which point all our trials will be over, the great day of judgement will be upon us, and we will at last be delivered from our suffering.

Look at it this way: you’ve just had a “Booking Model Operational Risk Working Group Fortnightly Stakeholder Call” put in your diary.

Now, leaving aside that one could scarcely string together nine more spirit-crushing words in the English language, there are THIRTY NINE, all fairly senior, people invited to this call. In other words, a full working week of your organisation’s employee time spent on an update call per fortnight. Now this may be exceedingly efficient for the crafty devil organising the call — kill thirty nine birds with one stone, yo — but immensely wasteful for everyone else.

Since only one person can talk at a time, we can deduce that each attendee will contribute, on average, one and a half minutes of relevant/valuable material on each call. So a single hour of valuable time, and thirty-eight wasted ones. From a pure cost perspective, you would think that would send the COO into orbit – but guess who sanctioned the call.

That’s just contributions, of course. The chance of anyone listening, at all, for the full hour, let alone being awake when the passing mention of the thing they might care about floats past the levy, is remote.

The COO could, of course, speak to each individual separately, prepare a single summary deck[1] to everyone for careful filing[2], but where, for the COO, would be the fun in that?

References

  1. Sigh.
  2. In the circular filing cabinet, of course.