Don't Meet About the Past

I don’t know who said this (I’ve misplaced the source), but I thought it was brilliant:

I don’t mind meetings about the future.  I just don’t like meetings about the past.

I’d never thought about it that way.  Who would really plan their life intentionally around meetings that are about the past?  The more I thought about it…the more I realized the answer is ‘lots of us.”

You meet about the past every time you:

Evaluate without clear changes for the future

Audit a problem simply to assign blame

Focus on what could have been

Discuss lingering issues without moving toward resolution

Dream, but don’t plan to implement (today’s unexecuted dreams become tomorrow’s regrets)

If you were to be completely honest with yourself, how much of your time is spent meeting about the past, not the future?  I’m afraid in many organizations, the percentage is measurable.  In dying organizations, it’s almost every meeting.

I don’t want to meet about the past anymore.  We can discuss it, but only insofar as it leads to a new future.

What have you learned about this?



  1. Chris Lema on April 25, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Over many years I’ve found that the role of the moderator, or leader, of any discussion is the critical role in helping a team navigate between a meeting that just looks back to blame, and one that learns from the past to make things better in the future. I love Senge (Fifth Discipline) stuff because feedback loops (not to be confused with the generic term of feedback where people tell you critical things and then call it ‘feedback’) can be either reinforcing or balancing. If a team learns just enough systems thinking, it’s a great tool to ask a new set of questions:

    What do we need to reinforce, that if we did, would create a virtuous cycle so that every year we could get better and better?

    What do we need to balance out, because without it, we’ll create a vicious cycle that will cause every year to get worse?

    These questions, and the discussions that follow, if led appropriately by a facilitator can be absolutely fantastic!


    PS. Sorry to miss you in ATL, but I’ve injured my back real bad and have to stay here for medical treatment (in lieu of surgery), so no plane ride out to Orange. Have a great time!

    • Carey on April 26, 2011 at 6:28 am

      Chris, these are great questions. Thanks! Those would be great meetings….

      So sorry about your back. That is so not fun. We will miss you man! Hope to see you soon!

  2. Ron Edmondson on April 25, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Good word Carey. Love this as we talk about Easter. Good timing

    • Carey on April 26, 2011 at 6:23 am

      It is kind of a resurrection topic isn’t it?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.