The MBA Meathead: Death by Meeting

TAGS: the mba meathead, productivty killer, main movements, building up weaknesses, accessory movements, meet preparation, hypertrophy, dave tate

The productivity killer

When I was a bright-eyed 22 year-old pecking away on a keyboard performing entry level tasks, I thought meetings were fantastic. I got to take a break from actual work while listening to some boss drone on about human resources policies or new time-card requirements. It was a mandatory unproductive period.

Flash forward a couple decades and my view of the value of meetings hasn't changed—they're by and large an unproductive wasteland. What has changed is my enjoyment of them. They sap the lifeblood from the collective output of entire organizations and waste more of my time than the Internet ever could. This isn't to say that meeting face-to-face with colleagues is useless. On the contrary, I believe that it's critical. The problem is that people send invites via Outlook or Lotus Notes because they're lazy or want to use group gatherings for political purposes.

The lazy part is when a dozen or more people are invited to discuss multiple discrete and mostly unrelated work streams. Very little good comes from getting human resources, IT, and finance people in a room to brainstorm about paths forward on any topic. The discussion degrades into subjective speculations about areas that people have no knowledge of and are usually not even remotely related to the scope of work at hand.

The political motivations come from inviting multiple layers of management in an attempt to make the subject matter appear more important than it is. The highest ranking person at the table, who usually knows the least about the topic under review, ends up guiding the discussion. This destroys the value of more tactically-oriented subject matter experts and marginalizes their input, thereby reducing the quality of the output.


What to do

Avoid laziness by thinking long and hard about the attendees of any given discussion and then ask yourself if they would be more productive as a group or as a series of collaborations with smaller, targeted groups or individuals. By productive, I mean decisions per minute. Will having human resources, IT, and finance all in one meeting facilitate quick resolution of interdependent issues or will a majority of everyone’s time be wasted with only a fraction of the meeting relevant to each respective function? The answer usually falls in the latter category.

Also, no meeting involving back and forth discussions should last more than sixty minutes. The goal should be no more than thirty minutes. If you, as the host, are prepared, you should be able to guide the conversation in a brisk fashion and keep people on point.

Don’t just show up and ask people to start talking. Frame the discussion, summarize the issues, and set possible paths forward in some form be it slides, bullet points, spreadsheets, or whatever. Give people structure to follow and then make sure they stay on point.

If you have more than ten people in a room, you’ve probably allowed the process to spiral out of control. Many will disagree on this point, but I firmly believe that if you schedule a multi-hour working session with any group of size, you're likely wasting significant chunks of time (and time equals money).

Too many people mistake collaboration for involving as many people as possible so that all viewpoints are represented. Hogwash. That's a prescription for meandering failure. Targeted collaboration with subject matter experts in small groups (or even individuals) with clear decision making accountabilities is where you need to spend your time and resources.



We're less than twelve weeks out from the next meet, which means it's time to stop dorking around with conditioning, hypertrophy, and all the other things that skinny people do. Just in time, too. I actually saw a couple abs trying to poke their way through my power gut these last couple weeks. I was also able to walk to the mailbox and back without requiring rest to allow the lower back pump to subside. What a disgrace.

It is time to start squeezing into multiple plies of polyester, increasing the weights, reducing the reps, shocking the nervous system, blowing blood vessels, and restoring a purple-hued facial bloat. This is a glorious time of pushing the limits, icing injuries in places you never knew existed, and smelling like veterinary-grade liniment all day, every day.

As far as the training plans go, I’m afraid I can’t say much because I don’t know much. I'm part of a very fortunate group programmed by Dave Tate. We receive instructions on a weekly basis in order to shape the training based feedback from the group regarding how we're feeling and where we're experiencing weak points. Now that the meet cycle is kicking into full swing, I'll record all my main movements and send that video along with feedback from the sessions. Dave sends me and the rest of the group instructions on Friday containing the following week’s training.

At a high level, there aren't any surprises or magic bullets to what we'll be doing. It will be consistent with what Dave has preached in the past and programs that he has posted. We will:

  • Work the main movements in two-to three-week blocks.
  • Use secondary lifts to build the main lifts.
  • Use accessory lifts to build overall weaknesses.
  • Shift the focus from more general work (secondary and accessory movements) to more specific work (competition lifts) as the meet approaches.
  • Taper down to hopefully peak at the right time.

In the next column, I'll outline the first four to six weeks and then eventually get to the entire meet preparation cycle. In the meantime, you can read Ted Toalston’s log to get a more real-time idea of what that entails. Thanks for reading.

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