“Sorry I am late – was unable to locate this meeting room in time – could I quickly catch up on the discussions so far?” This every day phenomenon halts the progress of many a meeting and puts everything in rewind mode.
The ‘catching up’ syndrome is a sibling to the ‘status update’ malady in corporate life, with equal power to disrupt and, many times, derail the rare phenomenon of forward progress in corporate meetings.
The golden rule in the deployment of this powerful tool is that you cannot be a junior member amongst the attendees – a junior associate in any meeting does not have the privilege of catching up that also goes hand in hand with his/her lack of privilege of coming late to the meeting – a prerequisite that lays the foundation for the need to catch up. Viewed in a positive manner (grin!), this is one of the unofficial perks of going up the executive ladder.
Let us follow the meeting for a few minutes to realize the magnitude of disruption and interruption that can be unleashed:
A meeting of territory managers is under way to determine the change in pricing strategy needed to respond to a recent price war initiated by a competitor. All the past data on sales and prices have been circulated and reviewed before the meeting so that the managers could focus on future actions during the meeting.
Enter their boss, the VP of Sales.
VP, Sales:… (hassled and short of breath) Sorry to be late as I was (choose option-1, option-2,…option-n)… What are we doing here?
Manager-1: We are finalizing our future pricing strategy to respond to recent increase in competition.
VP, Sales: Really?! Wow, I thought we were to talk about marketing campaigns here…anyway, what’s with the prices? I thought we already had the lowest prices in the market.
Manager-2: The detailed price analysis and trends are in the reports circulated last week. Clearly, we are …..
VP, Sales: Sorry guys, I am not up to speed on what is going on. Could I (hurray!) catch up on what has been going on?
Manager-3 (stunned face): Two weeks ago, our competitor cut the prices of many of their SKU’s by 20% and also offered multi-buy discounts. We are……
VP, Sales: Sorry to interrupt you but could you bring up the slides on how we have fared against competition over the past (fill in the blanks) years?
The meeting ends with the VP running off to another meeting to catch up on an unspecified agenda.
To the seasoned practitioner, catching up is limitless in its scope. You don’t need to stay on topic to catch up. For example, during a sales meeting such as the one mentioned above, in addition to asking questions on anything about prices and competition, you could also inquire about new products design; or transportation issues; or recruitment matters that some managers have reported in the past few weeks; even a company picnic that one of the regions had the previous week.
Catching up often has the effect of being a tête-à-tête for one but causes utter disruption for others and the organization. But, hey! Who can bell the cat!