Getting the Memo

A little over a month ago, we had a staff meeting.

“Please make sure that you fill out the TPS reports,” my supervisor said. [1] “We’re required to fill these out and keep track of them. We are expecting an inspection from the state soon, and they could ask where all the TPS reports are.” [2]

Sometimes the paperwork is a banal bit of absurdity; sometimes the paperwork is required by state and federal law. Sometimes it’s both. And sometimes it’s tracking the location and usage of, say, radioactive materials. Let’s just assume that it’s an important bit of paperwork – that’s not my point here.

The point is this: A month later, there was a large mis-match between the TPS reports and the inventory the reports were linked to. I was tasked with finding out why the forms did not match reality, which meant wading through large amounts of digitized paperwork. The problem was linked to two people in particular – both of whom were not at the staff meeting. Both of them, however, got the information from the meeting in a written summary.

This is kind of worrisome for me. I’ve long agreed with David Allen’s (of GTD fame) assertion that meetings should be for discussing and deciding, not mere information dispersal. I’ve gotten soured on several committees because the entire meeting time was taken up for relaying information, leaving no time to actually discuss, decide, or change anything. [3]

It applies in my classes as well. I enjoy classes where we do not recap the reading, but instead discuss and debate it. My least favorite class EVER was high school Physics; the teacher literally read the textbook to us from the front of the class. For the entire term.

But my co-workers make me worry.

This is not the first time a change from a staff meeting has been overlooked. The more I think about it, the more I realize that those who aren’t physically at a particular staff meeting are the same as those who don’t get the message. The students who aren’t there when the syllabus is read to them (shudder) are the same ones who complain that they “didn’t know”.

Is it due to a lack of consequences? Do they not read the syllabus or summary because they don’t feel they will be held accountable? Or is it due to differing learning styles, and they’re less able to comprehend textual communication?

What do you think?

[1] No, not really TPS reports.
[2] While not about TPS reports, this is true.
[3] In at least one case, I think this was on purpose.

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