Wish You were Here


Sharing a serendipitous innovation that helped in effective group communication for absent members.

In one of my earlier roles, we used to have a Group communication meet every last Friday of the month. This meeting was a mandatory meeting, with important information/decisions shared. After that, what was shared, was assumed to be known to all. But at times one or two group members would miss it, and encounter surprises sometime in the future and even spring inadvertent surprises for others as well.

If a person was unable to attend he or she would have to get an OK from me. Here is how one of such conversation went:

Sundar (one of my team): Hmm, I will not be able to attend the meeting today, I have a important family function on Saturday morning and have to catch a bus at 2 pm.

Me: You missed the last month meet too, I think you will have to attend this and go.

Sundar: No Vasu, you have to let me go, I will make up for it.

Me: How?

Sundar: I will go through the deck and any minutes.

Me: But that did not work last time, you missed out on some aspects and it became an issue for you as well as your team lead who got dragged into it.

Sundar: I know, I know, I feel guilty too, but what to do, it’s my brother’s engagement.

Me: So, what can be done?

Sundar fell silent for some time and offered: Vasu, look, after I return I will catch up with you some time, (pause) may be at lunch or break time and tell you the highlights of the communication.

Me: That’s a bit too much to do, how will you do?

Sundar: I will ask one of those present for an update, besides going through any artifacts.

Me: What if he misses telling you something?

Sundar: I will cross check with one another person.

Me: Do you think that is practical/ good enough, anything better? I said that without expecting an answer, but Sundar surprised me.

Sundar: I understand that if I ask after I return, I may get patchy information, so here is what I plan to do. I will ask my buddy Mohan to “listen in” for me and make note of anything important for me. That way the chances of not missing information relevant to me reduces.

That certainly was an improvement. Sundar missed the meeting, but updated me on return that he got a good update from Mohan. Mohan shared with him that as he had requested beforehand, he made sure that nothing relevant to Sundar was missed out, cheekily added that he himself was more attentive too.

And then came another Friday with same meeting, another team member Giri had to miss it. Giri had already conferred with Sundar and was ready to answer my questions and apprehensions.

This simple step was quite effective, and we termed this jokingly as “Wish You were Here” in our group lingo, the team member missing the meeting sincerely wishes to be present and the person’s buddy is tasked to ensure that his wishes are met.

Simple tweak, being a bit proactive, heads up to your buddy, ensures that the person pays attention from your perspective and gives you a relevant update.

This has become a habit with me and I ensure that I talk to at least two persons if I miss a meeting. Often, in the current set-up, I do not prep somebody to listen in, but still find it quite effective.

As a professional the onus is on oneself to make for any missed meeting. There is a onus of others too – convener of meet and others present, as the price paid for someone not being on the same page, is by all.

Another habit that I developed is that when I come across a person who has missed a meeting, I provide an informal update to the person, often try to present it in a way to make the person curious. This helps in keeping our group on the same page.

Would love to hear any views on above as well as your approach to similar issues.

What do you think?

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