About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Retractions: Why The Secrecy? | Main | Merck's Vorapaxar: Bleeding, Indeed »

January 19, 2011

Dogs and Ponys

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Here's a problem that I've seen at every company I've worked at, and there are good reasons to believe that it afflicts every company out there. That's because I think it's grounded in human nature: dog-and-pony-itis.

That's the phrase I use for what happens to meetings over time. Many readers will be familiar with the process: a company gradually accumulates regular meetings on its internal calendar - project team meetings, individual chemistry and biology meetings inside that, overall review meetings, resourcing, planning, interdisciplinary meetings. . .everyone who's anyone, in some companies, has to be calling a meeting of their very own.

Eventually, someone says "Enough!" and purges the schedule, replacing the tangle of overlapping meetings with A Brand New Meeting or two. These will actually discuss issues, for once, and people are encouraged to actually say what's really going on with their projects. For once. And who knows, maybe that's the case (for once) - but it doesn't last.

Because every time, in my experience, the Brand New Meeting itself starts to collect barnacles. Over time, it becomes less useful, and more of a show. The music starts up, the Pomeranian dogs start hopping around and barking, and the trained horses make their entrance from the wings. It becomes more expedient to just get up and tell people the broad strokes of a project, especially the broad strokes that are actually working, and leave the messy details out. And gradually, other meetings spring up to try to take up the slack, since nothing ever seems to get done at the Brand New. . .

The thing is, I don't know how to stop this from happening. It comes on like rust. I've lost count of the we've-got-to-get-rid-of-this-stupid-meeting initiatives I've seen over the years, and every time the cycles eventually repeats. So here's a question: has anyone broken out? And if you have, how? Suggestions welcomed in the comments. . .

Comments (54) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. wwjd on January 19, 2011 9:53 AM writes...


Permalink to Comment

2. Virgil on January 19, 2011 9:53 AM writes...

It helps to have a strong leader who "polices" such meetings, for example by moving the data presentation along when things get bogged down on the 3rd slide of a 25 slide presentation by a grad student. This person needs to be fairly senior, so they can reprimand those who hog the discussion. Clearly laid out expectations of what is required from meeting leaders also help (e.g. don't just re-hash your slides from last time - give us some new data). Building in a confidentiality agreement to the meeting (no data leaves the room even verbally) also helps in encouraging people to present their newest stuff. Changing up the food always helps (donuts get tired after a while), and having the meeting less often is also good (once a week is just crazy). Sending out reminders also helps - there's nothing worse than sitting thru' a meeting where the presenter forgot they were up this week, and did the slides on the train on the way into work.

Permalink to Comment

3. HappyDog on January 19, 2011 10:02 AM writes...

We still have the dog-and-pony show meetings, but for the discovery projects I've been responsible for, I've done away with regular meetings. There are plenty of avenues for team members to communicate otherwise via email or, preferrably, in person. Meetings are called when something needs to be discussed such as new data, a change in strategy, etc that requires the whole team's input. This discourages people doing busy work just so that they have something to show for the regularly scheduled project meeting.

I've also pretty much banned the use of PowerPoint. Team members can use any format they wish to present data; whiteboards, physical models, pen and paper, or computer graphics. I've found that just breaking out of the obligatory PP format seems to allow people to discuss the so-called 'out-of-the-box' ideas. The ensuing discussions tend to be much more dynamic and we end up with working meetings where we actually discuss (and argue) about the data that can't be conveniently fit into the PP format.

As for the meetings I have to attend that are called by others, they're pretty much what you would otherwise expect.

Permalink to Comment

4. MetRx on January 19, 2011 10:03 AM writes...

Nice observation derek except I've noticed a tendency to not drop the old meetings as much as the new meetings are started such that the overall number of meetings somehow trends up. I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment regarding the necessity of honest communication including troubling data and management is usually to blame. It is natural to subtly or even overtly prefer those presenting the good stuff that works. Since we are all good dogs looking for our doggie biscuits, we quickly learn to perform in only the ways that we will get our biscuits. I imagine if that management were able to focus on encouraging all discussion including that which doesn't please, we wouldn't have this problem. I think this phenomena leads to cheating and covering up bad results and sometimes to outright fraud in its most extreme manifestations. The will to present those results that please are quite strong in all of us.

Permalink to Comment

5. Chemjobber on January 19, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

James Mattis, the Marine general in charge of CENTCOM has this to say about Powerpoint in the military:

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Permalink to Comment

6. Henry's Cat on January 19, 2011 10:37 AM writes...

Very interesting topic; I believe the main reason we are overloaded with meetings is that it is the best way for sycophants and toadying lackeys to kiss some management ass.

Permalink to Comment

7. andrewD on January 19, 2011 10:40 AM writes...

Chemjobber @6
I would have thought that most problems faced by the Marines were "bullet-izable" (or artillery-able or tank-able)!

Permalink to Comment

8. Ash on January 19, 2011 10:41 AM writes...

a) If the meeting is not productive, don't go, email and ask for the ppt. slides that wer to be used for that meeting. Skim them at your discression. If enough people do this, unproductive meetings will drop away because not enough people show up.

disclaimer, I have no aspirations of advancment at my company, I like my job.

b) If a meeting is no longer productive, send an email to the participants suggesting the such meetings switch to a "as needed" basis. Do this even if you are the lowest grunt that atends said meeting ( as I usually am). I was twice succesful in killing a regular meeting with this approach in 2010.

Permalink to Comment

9. darwin on January 19, 2011 11:02 AM writes...

Everyone should have Six Sigma training as a prerequisite to corporate entrance so that the meetings run more efficiently which in turn makes the company more lean.

Permalink to Comment

10. quintus on January 19, 2011 11:11 AM writes...

Just decide if the meeting is relevant to your current project(s), if so, go, if not don't. Simple.
Information sessions, general company bullshit, propaganda, I never attended.

Permalink to Comment

11. GC on January 19, 2011 11:12 AM writes...

I drop off as soon as a PP presentation shows up. The moment it appears on the screen I either hang up the phone or walk out of the meeting.

PowerPoint is a "Thing I Won't Work With" and people know it. As a result, they tend to actually think about their presentation instead of slapping a PP together and calling it a day.

I also have to agree with Virgil's observation that meetings need leaders that actually run the meeting. It really makes a difference in whether it's information transfer or just a bunch of people jawing.

Permalink to Comment

12. Anonymous on January 19, 2011 11:13 AM writes...

Thanks for the perspective as I prepare to run my quarterly status meeting. I almost forgot the music track for the Pomeranians.

Permalink to Comment

13. bbooooooya on January 19, 2011 11:13 AM writes...

It's easier to constantly go to meetings than to do any actual work.

My favorite was one company I was at that tended to always have lunch meetings. I am convinced it was so they could always get a 'free lunch'....

Permalink to Comment

14. Anonymous on January 19, 2011 11:18 AM writes...

Perhaps if we removed the chairs from the room and turned off the Heat/AC it mights shorten the show.

Permalink to Comment

15. pete on January 19, 2011 11:36 AM writes...

Fire every third person in the room. It dramatically focuses the discussions -- and the donuts go farther.

Seriously, a few strategies that seem to have been productive:
- Enforce an 'effective meetings' mindset among meeting participants

- Mixed-menu: mix updates with more formal presentations by individuals/groups, then party occasionally

- Explicitly create meeting-free days

Permalink to Comment

16. MedChem on January 19, 2011 11:45 AM writes...

This problem will NEVER go away as long as you have managers whose sole ability is in "managing" projects and putting on eloquant speeches at these dog and pony shows/meetings.

Permalink to Comment

17. John Spevacek on January 19, 2011 11:48 AM writes...


I've worked for 2 large companies and 3 small ones. The small ones all have far more efficient and effective meetings. They have to - they are just trying to survive and don't have time to waste on deadly meetings.

The current company that I am at has a really weird behavior. Somewhere during the course of the meeting, someone will make a bad pun and then everyone gets sidelined with jokes and puns for a couple of minutes. And then we run out of steam and pretty much spontaneously return to the objective of the meeting.

Permalink to Comment

18. Fraxas on January 19, 2011 11:53 AM writes...

Software development, as a discipline, has had the 'Agile' buzzword sweep through in an attempt to reduce (among other things) this kind of administrative overhead. Specifically, the idea of a *daily* in-team stand-up meeting where everyone says (1) what they're doing (2) what they're having problems with. Every team holds a stand-up, and every few days the leads of those teams hold their own metastandup. Slides and so on are not allowed; any sub-discussion that's not interesting to the whole team or that's taking more than 2-3 minutes is tabled for a different, one-off meeting.

Permalink to Comment

19. Jordan on January 19, 2011 12:25 PM writes...

Often the issue is not really that there are too many meetings, but that they go on too long. I would rather go to two hours' worth of targeted, 30-min meetings than a solid two-hour meeting that is mostly useless to me.

Where I am, everyone gets a meeting agenda the day before with time allocated for each presentation, but the timing is rarely adhered to. Enforcing these timings (which requires "pressure from above") would go a long way to improving the meeting culture. Avoiding Powerpoint (with extensive pre-sharing of data) is one way to do this; having everyone stand up would probably work too!

Permalink to Comment

20. NHR_GUY on January 19, 2011 12:31 PM writes...

Having been a project leader, I was allowed to take an internally taught course titled "Meeting Effectiveness". It was a really useful course. One valuable lesson I walked away with is the philosophy of "No Agenda, No Attenda". If a meeting doesn't have an agenda, I won't go because I have no idea of what will be discussed, is the topic germane to my work, and how much of my day it will suck up.

On a side note, my 11 year old daughter and I have narrowed down the many meetings I attend during the day to three categories:
1) The look how smart I am meeting
2) The kumbaya meeting
3) The hey boss I'm still important meeting

Permalink to Comment

21. Vader on January 19, 2011 12:37 PM writes...

I'm blessed in this respect. I have a team meeting about every two or three weeks, and a group meeting about every three months. Everything else is a totally optional and often very interesting seminar presenting actual research results.

So far as I can tell, this is possible only because upper management are almost completely disconnected from the day to day research work. It's a government laboratory, naturally. Their job is to avoid embarrassing Congress. Our job is to find ways to continue doing research without running afoul of any of the maze of rules and regulations.

It can't last. But I'm enjoying it while I can. And then I'll be back to my family motto regarding meetings: Veni, Vader, Vinci ("I came, I choked everyone I saw, I conquered")

... On further reflection, the lack of useless meetings may be more than made up by the flux of mandatory training modules. My corporate training transcript is two pages long, and contains such gems as "Responsibilies of Corporate Credit Card Users" and "Time and Labor Awareness Training" as well as the predictable safety, security, and environment training. For some parts of our laboratory, these may make sense, but since as a computer jockey I deal with nothing more hazardous than whiteboard cleaner, they seem a bit silly to me.

So maybe the reason I'm not pestered with useless meetings is because our management have automated the process in the guise of training modules.

Permalink to Comment

22. johnnyboy on January 19, 2011 12:37 PM writes...

Meetings are a by-product of large organizations and the managerial overload that they suffer from. Inevitably in a large organization, there occur instances where a certain information should have been communicated from one person or group to another but didn't. The first instinct of manager types who learn of such a communication breakdown is to organize a way to prevent it, hence "information-sharing" meetings are born, to which more and more people get invited over time. Sharing information becomes an end in itself, and no one ever dares question whether the time spent sharing information would be more productively spent doing actual work, because this would brand you as negative or a cynic. It is rarely in a manager's nature to question whether there were real consequences to a particular instance of lack of communication, and whether institutionalized meetings will really result in increased productivity. Rather, such meetings justify the manager's position. Smaller companies have fewer information breakdowns, fewer middle managers, and generally less free time for their employees than large ones, hence less meetings.

On the other hand, I've never understood the people who rail against powerpoint. It's just a communication tool, like a blackboard, or pencils, or the human voice. I don't see how banning a tool can in itself improve communication. If you have nothing intelligent to communicate, it will show, whether you use powerpoint or a blackboard.

Permalink to Comment

23. molecular architect on January 19, 2011 1:06 PM writes...

PowerPoint a.k.a. "Microsoft Work Simulator"

It's great for presenting at conferences, a huge time waster for in-house meetings.

Permalink to Comment

24. anon on January 19, 2011 1:07 PM writes...

At the beginning of my career I was upset with information sharing that happened at meetings to which I was not invited. Specifically I was not consulted on promises being made for which I was resposible. Although I was never consulted I was informed that I didn't meet them. Later in my chemistry career I found it to be the dog and pony show that Derek describes. 20+ bench folks in a room trying to say they made some tremendous progress in the past two weeks. Folks make bad decisions on this kind of time line rather than focusing on the task they playing chess with there counterpart on the same project. If it isn't running reaction doomed to fail (but lots of them) its stealing targets from someone where the chemistry is working. The later is not so rotten if a discussion is had before hand.

Permalink to Comment

25. entropyGain on January 19, 2011 1:17 PM writes...

Agree with #17

Meeting in a startup:

Joe) Hey Mary, can we spend $300 on this?
Mary) Hell no, try and get it for $275.

meeting adjourned

Permalink to Comment

26. RM on January 19, 2011 1:46 PM writes...

I agree with johnnyboy@22 - It's not Powerpoint itself, it's the content. The presentation wouldn't be any better if they drew the slides on a whiteboard.

Which brings us to a topic that NHR_GUY@20 hinted at: Why are you having this meeting? This is more than just an agenda, which is simply what's being talked about. I believe that meetings devolve into dog-and-pony shows because people forget why they started meeting in the first place. The meetings become an end in themselves - you meet at 2 pm on Tuesday simply to have the 2 pm Tuesday meeting, regardless of any other value. For a meeting to be effective, you need to know what you're trying to accomplish with it. (What's so important about this meeting that you need to drag people away from the other things they're doing?)

And it needs to be clear to everyone involved. A meeting where one attendee is expecting a status update, another is expecting a problem solving session, and the presenter is giving a "justify your employment" talk isn't going to help anyone. "X Group meeting" is hopelessly vague - people need to know the point in order to stay on it.

To some extent this keys into the "as needed" suggestion that other people have. If the presenter is unprepared, or doesn't have any results worth sharing, having a meeting will just tick the "we had the meeting" box. (Unfortunately, CYA principle means you'll probably have it anyway, as no one will admit they're unprepared/don't have any results.)

Permalink to Comment

27. Paul on January 19, 2011 1:55 PM writes...

I have to say that PP can be an effective tool if it is used properly, especially for discussing complicated chemical schemes. The danger is the tendency to cram too much on the screen and stand there like an idiot and just read the text on the screen. Also, there is this dumb idea that if you call a meeting, you must have PP slides. Whatever happened to white boards, chalk boards, flip charts… anything that requires writing?

Permalink to Comment

28. Chrispy on January 19, 2011 3:58 PM writes...

PowerPoint isn't the problem, it is the people who use the default "bullet point" slide format. I find the program itself to be pretty good -- you can put in all kinds of graphical data, reaction schemes, etc. Just skip the bullet points.

Permalink to Comment

29. Greg Hlatky on January 19, 2011 4:05 PM writes...

1) The Bichon Frise ( is the real circus dog.

2) Meetings should be called, organized and chaired by people who hate meetings.

Permalink to Comment

30. wwjd on January 19, 2011 4:05 PM writes...

The reason to go to meetings is to network. Everyone in the room is going to be laid off in the next 1-2 years, so meeting people from other parts of the organization can help you land your next job. The information presented at the meeting is not important, the contacts you make are.

Permalink to Comment

31. Robert Bruce Thompson on January 19, 2011 4:21 PM writes...

Best way I know is to get rid of the conference room table and chairs.

Permalink to Comment

32. Hap on January 19, 2011 4:36 PM writes...

You can ban PowerPoint because it gives the illusion of fixed knowledge and of competence, but if people's careers depend precisely on those illusions (such as in Chemjobber's post on careerism in management), then those illusions are not going to go away. No one wants to hear that your subject matter is unpredictable, and that nothing that you're doing is certain in its outcomes, particularly not investors and management. People say what is likely to best serve their purposes - it's management's (difficult) job to get individuals' purposes to be in line with those of their employers. If that's done not well, then you end up with time-wasting meetings, among other things.

In my (limited) experience, any regular meeting among a sufficiently large set of people is a waste of time. In the intermediate size group setting (20 or so people), generally information is imparted and points made that could have been more effectively disseminated by email. Legitimate information sessions (trying to get information or to decide things) tend to get destroyed in detail by less substantive points or misunderstanding. Small group meetings for discussions (on particular, limited topics) and large meetings (with limited numbers of speakers) seem like they'd be OK.

Permalink to Comment

33. Another Kevin on January 19, 2011 7:44 PM writes...

When a project is troubled, management's first reaction is to call frequent meetings for status reports. Which of course means that progress is interrupted for the meetings (and the pre-meeting meetings, so that middle management can review what will be said to upper management, and the pre-meeting pre-meeting meetings, where group managers can review the presentations for the middle managers, etc...). Convergence is achieved only when you spend all your time reporting on the progress you aren't making.

Permalink to Comment

34. lynn on January 19, 2011 8:03 PM writes...

I think meetings evolved as organizations grew in layers of management - such that middle managers were asked more and more by upper managers for information about what the bench scientists were doing. So, middle management sets up CYA meetings in case upper levels ask questions. In the early days of my Big Pharma experience, we'd have periodic [maybe bimonthly] group meetings [5-10 people] whcih consisted of PhDs and their assistants doing related but independent projects - and our boss. We troubleshot each other's work, got feedback from the boss and went our happy ways. The boss would communicate up the line, when necessary. The whole area was run by a senior director and veep who did not meddle in everyday lab stuff, but who waited until positive results percolated up from the bench. And they did percolate. Drugs were developed [in the research labs as a whole, anyway]. Yearly meetings with the head of research and his hench-veeps were presentations of the interesting stuff that was ongoing. Over the years, more layers of management, more "direction" of projects from above, more meetings...and fewer drugs. Eventually it was all meetings all the time - and it had evolved into everyone CYAing up the line. No problems were ever mentioned, scientific criticism was squelched. And it was time for me to leave. I don't know where meetings fall on the causality scale. I think they ae a symptom of management of bench science from too high a level. I do not put any bame on power point.

Permalink to Comment

35. Anonymous on January 19, 2011 9:06 PM writes...

We have so many meetings that now we are told to accept meetings that happen to occur over lunch. Or after 5. And BTW, "you are not working at the bench enough, and BTW someone else needs your data, info and strategic insight" - so they can take credit for it in the double secret meetings that take place during our regularly scheduled meetings, which is why the "really important people" can't attend those...even tho they've accepted the invite - or even called the meetings themselves!!! You would not believe what goes on...its no way to run a business...

Permalink to Comment

36. Gary on January 19, 2011 11:37 PM writes...

This is a classic example of an oscillating system. Think of that weight on a spring in high school physics. The good news is that it is better than zhombie meetings that are virtually useless yet continue on for years on end because of inertia and somebody's ego. What is better than oscillating between one good meeting and way to many useless meeting is to actually actively experiment and let the meeting mix evolve with the needs of the organization. Easy to say very challenging to implement.
About Powerpoint Edward Tufte makes a pretty good case that Powerpoint played a role in the Columbia disaster. In my experience PP helps the worst 20% of presenters organize their throughts and doesn't hurt the best 20% of presenters who can effectively get their points across regardless of what kind of slides they use. The middle 60% would be much better off not using powerpoint or at least not using the default formats.

Permalink to Comment

37. Ed on January 20, 2011 1:37 AM writes...

WRT PowerPoint, I'd suggest that everyone reads "How to make and impact" by Jon Moon - it will transform the way you present information.

Permalink to Comment

38. Donough on January 20, 2011 3:11 AM writes...

I do not have any dony and pony meetings but then I am the engineer who is running around in the rain getting things done.
The Dutch hold a lot of meetings (I am Irish BTW). Generally these meetings are good in that they have aclear focus. As alluded to previously if you can gaurntee focus then you have a chance becuase you can set that focus oputside a particular meeting (and consequently turn down any meeting invite on the basis of lack of focus).
Practice of course can also be useful. Some people should also not give presentations (in the same way that some people should not manage, go into the lab etc).

Usually our meetings are confined to results or intepretation of results. The Dutch like to discus a lot and get different points of view. The problem with the Dutch is that making a decision can be very hard for them. With all the discussion etc...

Permalink to Comment

39. sepisp on January 20, 2011 4:04 AM writes...

Regarding Powerpoint, I've made it a general rule that a slide must have at least half graphics, images or other "visual" content. The rest must consist of words or short sentences, not long sentences, sentence fragments or newspaper headlines. The content of the presentation must be the talk and pointing at relevant parts the slides. I've been commended for good presentations almost each time I've abided by these rules.

It seems many if not most seem to write PP slides as summaries or lecturer's notes, which they aren't. Coupled with the pressure to come up with some apparently - and I stress apparently - consistent theory or message, this gives an illusion of control. "Since I've written this down like this, it must be true." Eventually the presenter starts believing in his own propaganda.

Permalink to Comment

40. Pete on January 20, 2011 5:13 AM writes...

In my experience, the most useless project meetings are those where the primary function of the meeting is to brief a useless project manager who is too lazy to keep up with what's happening in the project. Better information-sharing in projects (e.g. intranet and digests of latest results) can reduce the time spent in project meetings bringing everybody up to speed. I think that it would be a good idea to give the people who call meetings a 'meeting budget' which gets debited (in proportion to the number of attendees) when they call meetings. Overdrafts Striktly Verboten! Could also work for quarterly reports that are already well out of date before they are proofed...

Permalink to Comment

41. Anonymous on January 20, 2011 7:39 AM writes...

Are you sure it's not "dogs and ponIES?"


Permalink to Comment

42. InfMP on January 20, 2011 11:15 AM writes...

A friend of mine says he is an RA and not PhD chemist because he didn't want to have meetings all day (or be in his office).

Permalink to Comment

43. RM on January 20, 2011 11:37 AM writes...

You may have a point, Anonymous@41. I've scheduled a meeting at 4pm to discuss how we want to re-evaluate our pluralization procedures.

As there never seems to be a free conference room for some reason, I've taken the liberty of pre-booking 301A Mondays at 2pm if we decide we need a Pluralization Working Committee. That should work well for folks also on the Comma Usage Working Committee, as they have 301B at 1pm on Mondays. (Or is it Mondaies? Another agenda item for the Pl.W.C.)

Permalink to Comment

44. Anonymous on January 20, 2011 11:40 AM writes...

In my last company, Megalopharm, the managers had the people underneath them making the PP slides for their presentations for the meetings that the underling wasn't invited to. It was understood that the VPs didn't want anything like work to interfere with their afternoon golf games.

Permalink to Comment

45. Deep Lurker on January 20, 2011 12:04 PM writes...

I agree with those who say that it isn't PowerPoint that's the problem, but rather bullet points and the use of PP slides as outlines/summaries/lecturer's notes.

It's a problem with Microsoft Office programs in general: The default settings are geared toward razzle-dazzle demos with little practical use. They need to be broken (in the sense that wild horses are broken) to get useful work from them. This requires a ruthless search-and-destroy march through the various options and customizations, and an avoidance of the various "smart" and "wizard" settings.

Permalink to Comment

46. drug_hunter on January 20, 2011 12:21 PM writes...

RM (#43) wins. Case closed.

Permalink to Comment

47. Chemjobber on January 20, 2011 12:58 PM writes...

I was going to plug my post about this, but I surrender. RM (#43) wins the thread.

Permalink to Comment

48. Bruce Hamilton on January 20, 2011 6:20 PM writes...

The only effective method for me was...
Or receipt of the meeting invite, send a request to the initiator asking for a project number I could charge my time at the meeting to.

Turns out most didn't want me to attend at their expense.

I also noted that meeting number and frequency inversely correlates with the financial situation of the company. Small companies growing quickly highly value employees productivity, and don't have idle hands to perform the devil's work.

Permalink to Comment

49. pharmadude on January 20, 2011 7:37 PM writes...

Powerpoint it great. I've found that the people who want many and long meetings are usually office bound ex-researchers who often don't even have a lab bench anymore. If you didn't have a lab bench, what would you do with your day? So don't dump on the powerpoint, just make sure you don't have too many desk bound 'management' wastoids trying to find ways to pass the time!

Permalink to Comment

50. Cellbio on January 20, 2011 8:37 PM writes...

Most comments made already, but here was my approach:

When a team leader, refuse to call the meetings.

Recruit like minded people to the project.

Keep refusing as long as possible.

As a group leader, limit meetings, make it clear that presentations are not meant to communicate the volume of work, only the impact to the project. Actively manage slide content to this point.

Try to move away from powerpoint. Use tools like Spotfire in rooms equipped with access to databases to make the meetings more vital.

Then, when the cultural tide was overwhelming, and the company was full of people who were drug discoverers precisely because they attended project meetings and presented the volume of work from their subgroup, I left for the culture of small companies.

The big I was with went through some of the suggestions here: slide only like this, do only that, only this many slides, it is all just formatting changes that do little to influence the presentations if the larger company culture is about appearance and becoming a favorite, or assuring your survival in the next round of cuts. The best culture is a bottom line culture that does not care about volume, but value creation. If you aim for this message, namely, did we do something valuable since the last meeting, chances are the meeting ends early and everyone walks away with a greater sense of urgency.

Permalink to Comment

51. dvizard on January 21, 2011 5:55 AM writes...

>PowerPoint isn't the problem, it is the people who use the default "bullet point" slide format.
>PowerPoint isn't the problem, it is the people who use the default "bullet point" slide format.
>PowerPoint isn't the problem, it is the people who use the default "bullet point" slide format.

True story. I especially hate the presentations where the slide reads "Experiments revealed that A leads to B with X% chance and this was evaluated by technique Y" and the presenter repeats the exact sentence on the slide.

I actually stopped putting text on slides (or on most of them, at least) a while ago.

Permalink to Comment

52. Laugh_don't_cry on January 21, 2011 6:37 AM writes...

At my place there was a big push to get away from endless cycle of project meetings, program meetings, team meetings etc etc. One member of staff in my department was given the task of trying to tackle this and responded by setting up a series of meetings to discuss the issue.

Unfortunately the irony was somewhat lost on them. The rest of us had a good laugh about it though.

Permalink to Comment

53. Bill on January 27, 2011 5:02 AM writes...

Ah, meetings! The favorite excuse for lazy people to avoid real work. We have so many stupid meetings at my company, it's surprising any of us ever gets any work done!

Permalink to Comment

54. Meister on January 29, 2011 4:09 AM writes...

Big pharma managers get bored and lonely being tucked away in their office all day. They need some human contact so schedule endlessly repeating meetings to comfort themselves by talking at their staff for an hour or two.

I know this as I was one of these people. Now much happier being back in the lab and avoiding meetings where possible.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry