SCHEDULED MEETINGS, even virtual ones, need to be prepared for. A detailed agenda (and the clickable link for the meet) is sent out to attendees to make sure they have useful insights and comments to offer. The agenda provides a list of matters to be taken up. Attached position papers and risk assessments may accompany the items.
Open issues (like a massively unfavorable reaction to an announcement) alerts participants on what positions to take, and scout for irrelevant statistics to divert attention from a catastrophe. There are other crises we should be looking at.
The agenda provides no clue on how much time a specific subject will take up, only the order in which this will be discussed. Sequence has no relation to ranking in importance to the fate of an organization or the amount of time and heated exchange a particular item will elicit. The chair can change the order around, if one presenter is late. He can also skip a topic and move it to next month’s agenda — we need a deeper study on the state of oligarchy in our regional branches.
The last item before adjournment is marked as “other matters.” This surprise number can be anything from unsolicited opinions to a list of redundant executives or the acquisition of a thriving company that is not for sale.
“Other matters” can turn out to be any of the following:
It’s the last item before adjournment. There is nothing else on the plate, and this non-item serves as a closed punctuation mark. The chair looks around the table and intones — There, being no other matters for consideration, do I hear a motion to adjourn?
It prevents attendees from leaving after their own presentations. The possibility of an unknown item which may involve them (Where did he go?) keeps everyone in his seat. The unidentified topic is a red herring forestalling a slow erosion of participants. This last item projects the same allure of a raffle prize available only to those who are still around when the number is called.
It involves a delicate matter and presumes that secretaries routinely peek into the agenda of meetings their bosses attend. An item like sexual harassment in the office or the introduction of a secretarial pool to replace having one secretary per executive can be buried under “other matters.”
It is an announcement not open for discussion or negotiation. A “downsizing” which reduces the number of chairs around the meeting room (or faces in the big screen of a virtual meeting) is tucked under “other matters.” (Okay, time for the photo. Smile.) The untitled item prevents lobbying and tearful requests to defer implementation of the flatter organization, especially for those whose names are not in any boxes.
It is a frivolous subject. The catch-all category can include such items as the theme for the virtual Christmas party ahead (wear federalist uniforms), menu for the next meeting, or the selection of a committee spokesman — he can be Mr. Congeniality when he defends this awful decision.
“Other matters” can be subjects of interest to the chair. There is no substitute for preparedness. The chair brings up office renovation to provide social distancing parameters. The one in charge is caught unprepared for the question. Did you really convert the nursing station for unwed mothers to a stock room for dead files? The minutes will reflect that the one in charge was tongue-tied, as the chair adjourned the meeting.
Other matters can also refer to a hidden agenda. A committee, intended to clarify issues on a company’s worthiness to continue its business, can turn into an avenging angel smiting the Philistines, ignoring testimonies and clarifications. (This company just needs to be crushed like a cigarette butt.)
The corporate assassins may later be confronted with the economic havoc they have unleashed. They offer solutions to the problems they created — sell to a friendly billionaire; let the union run it and give them a price break to acquire control; let the displaced just look for other jobs. (Do we have to think of everything?)
As for the collateral damage on investor sentiment, reduction of tax revenues, the rise in unemployment, and a dip in the GDP from the contribution of a top-100 company listed in the stock exchange, the guilty parties shrug off such attacks as…. “other matters.” Meeting is adjourned.
Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda