Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Glimpse Into the Awesome World of Meetings

It may have occurred to some of you that much of what we do in this business sector has to do with meetings. We are all fully committed to coordination, cooperation, sharing of information, learning lessons, creating enabling environments and that the only way all these noble ideas can be achieved is through the marvelous realm of life-saving meetings.

With the passing of time, HRI & affiliates have developed a repository and specialized jargon to differentiate among various types of meetings, but also to build the necessary skills and core competencies in our staff to handle this awesome diversity (you want to send the right skills to the right meeting).

The endless diversity and richness in the world of meetings can hardly be captured in a simple list and any attempt will remain nothing but a humble “work in progress”, continuously evolving with the development of our business sector (there’s a pun there waiting to happen).

Regardless, I am happy to share with you the most updated version in the hope that it will give at least a glimpse in the marvelous world of meetings.

The “LBS”, or the “Lima Bravo Sierra” (short for Look Busy And Stall) - a favourite here, organized for the purpose of avoiding doing something while looking busy doing it. Self explanatory, no?

The “Skopje Sling” – HRI convinces the government to call a meeting so agenda items look like government proposals. Took its name from the golden days of new autonomous states.

The “Dry Cleaner” – useful when a HRI reasonably paid consultant needs to legitimize a copy/paste job from another country (policy, strategy, action plan, roadmap). Example of use: "We just got a grant to develop public health policies in Sri Lanka, call Ed and have him pull a Dry Cleaner on that job he’s done for us in the Solomons".

The “Hulk Hogan” (the name is a complicated derivate from Steering Committee, as in Steering as in Handlebar as in Hulk being like Mr. Handlebar Mustache). When you pull a "Hulk Hogan" you share very complicated matrixes and work plans written by reasonably paid consultants in impenetrable wank-lish to a steering committee, on the assumption that no-one will ever be able to read them and then, as you improvise during implementation you repeatedly make reference to the workplan/ matrix/ strategy. No-one will actually check.

The “SHRUE” (as in Shift Responsibility to Uncertain Entity) – organized when decisions need to be taken that should not be traced back to HRI, or any other specific player for that matter. Difficult one to pull without preliminary “groundwork” and a way to spend donor money discretely. Should be timed to coincide with mealtimes. Use: “This is a pretty shitty plan but money needs to be spent; Nathan, pull a SHRUE on it please”)

The “Maradona”, also know affectionately as "The Diego" – a meeting is called after a miserable and obvious failure, with the objective to “identify challenges” and “lessons learned”, as a way to avoid admitting responsibility. Official documentation in a “Maradona” is always formulated in passive voice (“challenges have been faced”, “there was a gap in communication”, “capacity to absorb has been low” etc.) and conclusions involve recommendations that need further funding to address. Named in honor of the legendary Diego who managed to win the mother of all games by braking the most important rule and not only did he get away with it, but he made more money after that.  

The “Trojan” – attending a meeting/ becoming members in a task force for the sole purpose of sabotaging a competitor providing constructive criticism to a partner, that may result in changes in strategy. A good way to pull a Trojan is to exploit the instincts of any collective body to favour unanimity and avoid conflict. For example, a competitor partner presents a distribution strategy for NFIs (non-food items, for the uninitiated) to an emergency planning committee. HRI would pick on a detail and “express concerns”, for example by saying that members of so and so obscure group in so and so community receiving those NFI have a cultural suspicion of the color blue (which they believe brings bad luck). Unfortunately that tarpaulin provided by the competitor partner is blue therefore we cannot support that distribution strategy. The rest will be done by the ensuing dynamic and the whole thing may evolve in either a "Lima Bravo Sierra" (above) or and “Avalanche” (below).

The “Avalanche” – possibly a sub-genre of the “Lima Bravo Sierra”, using as main stalling technique the “follow up meeting” which will require an action group that needs to be divided in topical working groups that report back to a task force and so on ad nauseam.

The “High Five” – a meeting organized for the sole purpose of patting each other’s backs. Very wide spread, requires no further explanation.

The “Weasel Hold’em” – call a meeting to “collect feedback” on an item that has already been decided as a way to create the illusion of ownership.


  1. Ah the Hulk Hogan and the Avalanche I know too well.
    Ad nauseum indeed...how many matrices must be filled godamnit???? How many matrices, frameworks, and chart-graphs does it take to save a child's life?

  2. And another thing...I HATE YOU AID SYSTEM. I really do. Sometimes I feel so sorry for myself that my once-passionate desire to 'help' and get my hands dirty was hijacked by this godforsaken nightmare of bullshit straightjackets like RBM, LFA, and other such boxes that destroy my soul and frustrate everyone. Why if a handsome salary wasn't wired into my bank account every month...I don't think I could go on.