02. September 2004 · Comments Off on Rites, Legends and Lore #9: Meetings, Bloody Meetings · Categories: General

This blogger laments the time wasted in meetings, meetings to plan events, meetings that are a waste of time and annoyance to most of the people involved. But the ability to run a productive meeting is a skill, a rare and necessary skill, and the military was where I first saw it displayed to effective advantage.
MSgt Rob the station manager at FEN Misawa, for reasons of his own, of which I knew nothing at the time, but probably had more to do with his schedule and disinclination to spend his own time on a pretty routine task, sent me to attend a planning meeting. It was the planning meeting to work out the details of the annual Air Force ball, and all around the table at the NCO club were representatives from every other unit on base. All guys, every one of them with about six times my time in service, and enough stripes to dazzle a herd of zebras.
And they had the whole project sorted out in a briskly off-hand manner;
Venue? O’Club or NCO. O’Club a bit more plush, a bit more special. All in favor? Aye.
Date? Calendars consulted. Friday in September when the O’Club was available. No conflicts with third Friday? Ok, then. Third Friday it was.
DJ, for after-dinner dancing? One of the present NCOs was the MWR manager, and armed with a list of available DJs. He was detailed to work out who would be available for that date, and brief us at the next meeting; any of them would be acceptable.
Cost of tickets? Keep ’em affortable so the junior enlisted could participate. Some small discussion on what exactly consituted affordible, and all eyes swiveled to me, as the only junior enlisted present. I stammered out a cost which I thought would be acceptable. Right. Agreed? Next item— the menu.
The MWR manager, prepped with a list of available banquet entrees available from the O’Club kitchen, read out the items that agreed with the cost of tickets: chicken with mushrooms, or beef burgundy. Everyone cool with that choice? Good.
Guests at the head table? Of course the guest of honor, who would also be the speaker. The base commanders and spouses, the chaplain who would do the invocation— short sidetrack while the representative from the Chapel was instructed to see which of the chaplains would be available on the date in question.
Decor for the tables, and that? This produced a silence, until I cleared my throat and suggested that the tablecloths be autumn colors— red and gold, maybe. And fall foliage on the tables instead of flowers.
I held my breath; this sort of thing would have brought about hours of discussion among the Girl Scouts, or the church ladies. Everyone would take sides, and argue over it, and not a few feelings would be hurt, and it would only be resolved when everyone was heartily sick of fighting over it.
The senior NCO looked at the MWR manager? Red and gold tablecloths? Not a problem, said the MWR manager, we got ’em. All agreed, red and gold it is.
Deliver the guest of honor in an eccentric vehicle— of course. It is the custom. Some discussion about possibly using the flight-line fire engine. The NCO from the fire department does not like that, and suggests using the little “follow me” truck. Perfect. All agreed. The NCO from the motor pool will make the “follow me” truck available on the evening in question.
The NCO representing the Personnel section— which included the base reprographics section— has enough information to mock up the tickets. At the next meeting, the program for the evening would be set. He would bring the tickets to the next meeting, where we would have the information for the final program line-up. Anything we’ve forgotten? No. Next meeting, this time next Thursday.
Fourty-five minutes flat, under the firm hand of decisive people who do not wish to waste time… or anyone elses.
I love doing business that way.

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