Have you ever been in a meeting which looked as if it was just about to end, when the person chairing it looked around and said the dreaded words, “Any other business?”
This is where you cross your fingers and hope that no – one says anything. But, of course, they always do. There’s always someone who’s been waiting just for this moment. This is their chance to take the stage, to get everyone’s attention and to keep them trapped in the room when they’re desperate to get out.
A.O.B. is a good example of what’s wrong with so many meetings. In my opinion, it should be banned. Why? Well, since you ask…
What are some characteristics of a well prepared and well run meeting?
- Everyone knows what the meeting’s for and why it’s happening
- The meeting has a clear purpose and a defined outcome
- It isn’t just to pass on information because that can be in lots of other ways
- People have seen the agenda in advance so they know what’s coming up
- The meeting has fixed start and end times – and the chairperson sticks to them
Unfortunately, most people’s experience is of long – winded meetings which don’t seem to achieve anything and which go on too long, with some people apparently speaking for the sake of hearing their own voice. A.O.B. encourages this. In fact, it encourages all the bad aspects of meetings.
It allows people to hijack the meeting, to raise their own pet issues which may not have any place in that particular meeting and which the other people there may not need to hear about. Some people just want to take advantage of the fact that they have a captive audience to sound off about something or make some announcement which could just as well be made on another occasion.
A.O.B. sits there like an unexploded bomb, waiting to destroy the whole agenda and the timing of the meeting. Because the person chairing it has no idea what issues will come up or how long they’ll take. It discourages proper, informed discussion because people won’t be prepared to discuss the issues raised, they’ve had no time to think about them. And, because A.O.B. tends to come at the end of the meeting, people aren’t in the best frame of mind to discuss anything anyway because they just want to leave.
So, what’s the solution? How can you deal with A.O.B. if you’re chairing a meeting? Well, if you want to be radical (and why not?) just outlaw the whole idea of “Any Other Business”. If the meeting is properly planned, there shouldn’t be any. Agree an agenda in advance and don’t allow late alterations unless they’re absolutely necessary.
Alternatively, if you still want to have it as an option, ask people right at the start of the meeting if there’s any essential business they need to add, then ask what it is and make a decision about how long you can allocate for the item. Then stick to that timing so it doesn’t wreck the whole meeting.