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Question How long does a person sending out a poll to pick a meeting time have to make a decision on when the meeting will be?

Details USA. Large organization with multiple teams, groups, etc. When trying to schedule a meeting with multiple individuals from multiple teams (so everyone has different time constraints), people use an external website (e.g. Doodle) to conduct a poll. The sender lists multiple days and times, and each respondent indicates yes to the times that would work for them. The hope is that there is a magic time that everyone (or almost) says yes to.

It helps avoid multiple back and forth emails and is an option in between the positions of just send a calendar invite or email first in the following related:

Are calendar invitations rude?

Problem Alice sends a poll for a couple weeks in the future. Our Hero responds, and selects yes for several. A few days go by with no meeting set yet. Now Bill sends a poll about a totally different issue, involving an almost completely different set of people except Hero is requested for that one also and many of the times are similar. Hero is not going to consider every time that he marked yes on a poll now off limits, so he answers Bill’s poll based on current availability. Although Bill started after Alice, he made his decision sooner, so now a time previously free is no longer free for Hero. To make it simpler- In the interim from when Alice sent out the poll, Hero gets other appointments or other conflicts come up on his schedule.

Botton line After several days, Alice writes “Looks like next Thursday at 1 is good for everyone!” Hero bangs head on desk and thinks “Yeah, last week I was free in two Thursdays, but not anymore.” But then everyone else is frustrated.

I know poor Alice had the problem of non-responders, so question 1a is how long do people get to respond before she goes and schedules. The issue here is people are in a variety of departments, all are busy professionals and more or less on the same level. If it was the boss, everyone would make it when told, or would at least respond right away.

solutions/considerations 1. First one to actually schedule something wins if all else equal. 2. Same as old fashioned schedule conflicts, you prioritize based on urgency, importance to organization, etc. 3. Something with only 2 or 3 people might have more flexibility to move, etc.

I think being expected to go back to the still open poll to take away a yes is too much, but when I have responded and a reminder/nudge comes later I do look and change my answers if needed. Sometimes.

Hero could wait one day on Bill’s to see if Alice sets hers, but it has already been several days and that gets to my question.

All that said, back to the question and related issues:

  1. What is a reasonable shelf life of a poll response (I think 24-48 hrs max)?

1a. How long do respondents get before being either nudged or just scheduled if they had better show up?

  • Of course :) @Joe – Damila Jan 10 at 11:52
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As you've experienced, attempting to poll people's availability for meetings is largely a waste of time. By asking people when they're available, you're kind of implying that the meeting isn't that important and isn't that urgent. The more people you poll, the worse things will get.

Rethink how you're doing this.

Consider who really needs to be at that meeting (i.e. they're likely to have an input) and who doesn't (they just need to know the outcome) and only invite the people who need to be there.

And "invite" is the key word here. Set up the meeting ahead of time and allow people the time to say that they won't be available and reschedule if that's the case.

If you work at the same company, it's likely that you'll be able to see other people's calendars (or at least free/busy times). If this is the case, then use this information to book something. If not, book something for when is most convenient for you/the project and let people work toward fitting into that slot. Only reschedule if vital participants can't make the time/date.

  • This is the perfect answer. Everything about it is perfect. – Fattie Jan 10 at 12:28
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Two things struck me from reading the question.

  1. This "solution" doesn't work - this is why things like proper calendar scheduling such as that provided by Outlook/Exchange should be used instead, while still not perfect it makes scheduling meetings with multiple busy people much, much simpler and easier than this polling nonsense.

  2. The "hero" appears to be lacking in common sense.

Hero is not going to consider every time that he marked yes on a poll now off limits

While it's not essential to consider this as "off limits" it does make a certain amount of sense to avoid offering such tentatively allocated times as much as a practical surely?

That said point two is largely academic if the real problem - that of the ridiculous scheduling process is addressed.

  • I agree with both. Point 2 is the root of te question- for how long should one avoid the tentative times. It may be several times across a week. Point 1 has its drawbacks, as listed in the linked Q. – Damila Jan 10 at 12:11
  • @Damila apart from inter-op/visibility issues between separate companies all the "drawbacks" to meeting invites listed on the linked Q were down to "people not using the system properly" which has been a weakness of every method of scheduling since neanderthals first tried to co-ordinate when to go hunting for food. – motosubatsu Jan 10 at 12:23
  • @motosubatsu You're implying here that the Neanderthal race died out because of their lack of organizational skills? Do you have a citation for that? – Snow Jan 10 at 13:57
  • @Snow there was a meeting planned to prepare suitable citation materials. Unfortunately we're still trying to get it scheduled – motosubatsu Jan 10 at 13:59
  • I think Hero is doing just fine. In a dysfunctional setup like this, Hero may have several meeting time proposals, and it isn't Hero's job to keep track of every possible meeting time. It also isn't Hero's job to be really hard to schedule because someone else can't get her act together. – David Thornley Jan 10 at 16:48

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