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“circle back” September 29, 2008

Posted by That Guy in Definition.
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circle back
(SIR-kull BAK)

The concept of using the phrase “circle back” to say “let’s get together later and see what’s been accomplished” is actually very accurate when it comes to the corporate mindset. The point of ending a meeting by saying “let’s circle back later” is to tell people that you want them to go do some work, then meet briefly again to see what still needs doing.

What actually happens is… well, nothing. The project team gets back together, determines just how much work could’ve been done if the meeting hadn’t been held, and everyone leaves the meeting disgruntled.

The whole concept of meeting again to discuss progress while using a circle as a metaphor is flawed. Going in a circle means ending where you started. Why would you want your team to finish exactly where they started? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having a meeting to determine what needs to be done and portion out tasks?

Most meetings end with people going to their desks, checking e-mail and Facebook, and then complaining about the meeting or going to get more coffee. Meetings aren’t ended with actionable requests — most of the time, anyway. They’re ended with pithy phrases like “let’s circle back later”. Of course people aren’t going to go work; they know there’s no accountability because there’ll be another meeting. And another. And another. Until finally that one guy (or girl) does everyone’s work and only receives 10% of the credit.

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