Getting blamed, or Email isn’t communication…

If you stick around any place long enough you’ll find that you’re often able to predict trouble spots in most of your standard and repetitive procedures. The place where I didn’t expect it to show up this week was in finding myself personally responsible for one of the 60 people who just didn’t bother to show up as scheduled.

It turns out that even though 59 other people received the voluminous email messages addressed to “Dear Random Major Event Attendees”, and showed up as directed, email is “not a sufficient way to communicate.” The other, simpler, possibility is that someone just didn’t bother to read and follow the directions that got, literally, every other person on the list to the right place at the right time.

Look, I don’t mind taking my lumps when I well and truly fuck something up. By all means, lay it on. However, when the fault lies plainly on the 1 in 60 that failed to comply, well, I don’t know what to tell you… Maybe plus up the budget a bit so we can hire a full time invitation engraver?

Legitimate controlling authority…

Despite having no actual personal interest in event planning, I have a skill for it. I’ve largely learned to accept that fate for the time being. The thing about being a party planner is that it relies entirely on convincing people to go along with whatever wild ass scheme you come up with for them since you have no actual statutory authority to direct anyone to do anything.

The largest portion of my job that isn’t slamming together PowerPoint slides is taken up by “facilitating.” Since I’m not a subject matter expert in nearly anything these days, I specialize in putting the right people in a room and trying to help them come up with a plan. Sometimes people don’t want to play along. That sucks, but beyond flooding their inbox with meeting invitations and leaving the occasional well-worded voice message, I don’t have any actual power to force anyone to show up.

There are those at echelons higher than reality, however, that do have the power to force people to show up at specific times and places where they would rather not be. When those people turn to you and demand to know why someone isn’t in the room, well, the best I can do is shrug and remind them that I sent the invitation, I followed up with multiple calls, I sent a second invitation… and that at the end of the day, I’m not the one with the authority to make anyone do shit.

If those with legitimate controlling authority choose not to exercise it in favor of having we mere mortals ask nicely, I have no idea why they’d expect the results to be anything other than what they are.

Meetings…

It’s not an official duty day without attending at least one meeting. It is, therefore, imperative that we have an effective and efficient means of coordinating who should attend and when they should arrive. If only there was a widely available and heavily used computer program that would make that possible. Oh, yeah… Outlook does that. In theory. What setting up meetings in outlook really does for us, though, is generate mass confusion surrounding any meeting that we might ever attempt to schedule. In fairness, I suppose it’s not so much an Outlook error as it is operator incompetence.

Scheduling a major meeting at our “organization” (i.e. any aggregation of more than four people) involves a process that looks something like this:

Step 1: Set up a meeting request in Outlook

Step 2: Change the time and/or date of this meeting at least three times

Step 3: Receive one or more cancelation notices

Step 4: Get three follow-up meeting requests either the same or slightly
different than the first

Step 5: Receive a reminder email from the meeting organizer two days before the meeting

Step 6: Receive a reminder phone call from the meeting organizer one dat before the meeting

Step 7: 15 minutes before the meeting receive 1-3 automatic reminders from Outlook depending on how many of the original meeting requests the organizer remembered to cancel.

Step 8: Arrive at the appointed conference room to find it empty and the lights off

Step 9: Consider the misguided series of steps that led you to your current career.

If you’re lucky, the no one else will figure out when or where the meeting is actually supposed to take place either and you’ll at least have a nice quiet conference room to hide in for a while. Quiet weeping is optional at your discretion.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.