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My boss hired a person some time ago to "optimize the way we are working". Let's call him Mike. Mike reports to a peer of mine.

Now Mike expects me to meet him again and again for him to "advise me". The problem is the meetings consist of him telling me what I already now - he repeats what I told him before. I know what my blockers are. The fact he will repeat it without proposing a solution won't help me. It actually hurts me cause then I need to stay longer to get things done.

I've tried asking about a specific topic or agenda for the meeting, but received very general answers about him wanting to "discuss the blockers and conditions". I'm in IT and my "blockers" are very tangible: it's the lack of several, let's call them, tools because of management's decision not to provide them. I've found work-arounds for that but Mike doesn't want us to work with work-arounds.

I reply that we've done that already. He insists on having the meeting. This way they will be able to tell my boss they conducted a consulting session with me. For some reason, my boss sees it as proving their employment makes sense. 

But if I turn it down, I will be branded uncooperative. Or he will tell my boss that he can't do his job cause I don't have time to meet him.

What are some ways to avoid these meetings without having problems?

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    Can you push your insistence on specific agenda items? Seems like your boss couldn't object to that. – DaveG Oct 14 '20 at 21:21
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    @JoeStrazzere, he's proposing his own work-arounds. But I won't waste time implementing new work-arounds which aren't better than what we already have. – keep_calm_don't_screem Oct 14 '20 at 21:26
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    Dipan's answer raises a good point. Are you able to just call into this meeting for 3 minutes, state that the issues remain the same, ask if Mike has a real solution, then close the call? After a few times either he'll get the message or you can escalate to your boss. Or is there a reason to think you'd be "held hostage" in these meetings? How assertive have you been in pushing back when meetings run long or it becomes clear there's no point to one? – Lilienthal Oct 15 '20 at 11:20
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    "It actually hurts me cause then I need to stay longer to get things done." I would not work a minute overtime because of this. I'd tell my manager "I won't meet the deadline because I'll be sitting in that meeting with Mike for two hours today." I'd expect that priority of these meetings would decrease quickly. – Roland Oct 15 '20 at 12:23
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Document the meetings. Basically take minutes of what was discussed, what was suggested and why it will/won't work. If it won't work, document why.

For the "workarounds", pick one or two that can be easily shown whether it's an improvement or not and implement it. Document how much time that took, what was affected in your daily work and whether there was any benefit.

Your company's paying the consultant a lot of money. If you believe he's not worth it, you have to prove it.

You don't want to make it too obvious, just document the heck out of the process and make sure you have concrete wants to show whether the extra work is worth it.

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Are these really useless meetings?

From what I could read from your message about Mike - it is to have a recurring meeting, where you reevaluate the status, find are there any blockers, if any new issues arise or the old one is resolved.

This essentially becomes like regular status meetings, and the purpose is mostly communication and updates. Basically, Mike and you both might be aware of things, but both of you must have a clear handshake and agree that you are on the same page; maybe only after that Mike will appraise the higher-ups for any critical updates.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Maintain a single XL sheet (better if online) to update things as they come and go.
  • Define action items against each and define who is going to do what
  • Have a clear idea of what is expected and agree upon it.
  • Highlight what changed in during the period and focus only on that
  • Sometimes, no change in status is a cause of worry and new actions might be needed.
  • Do you disagree with the approach or action? Highlight that and discuss with your boss after every meeting.
  • Finally, if things haven't changed or no new items need concern, you don't have to waste time, you can end the meeting post conclusion
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Short answer: you don't turn down these meetings, because you don't (and cannot) know if they are actually useless.

You have just a role in your company and you don't have a full picture of what is going on. Nonetheless, you should trust what the management is doing. They hired (and payed) someone to improve the situation and you should, at least in this phase, assume that these meetings make sense for them. Trust them, since they have a bigger picture.

Of course you can report to your boss what happens during these meetings, provided that you just state facts and let them evaluate their effectiveness. If boss won't see results, it will be the first to be upset about it. But it's also possible (and likely) that things might go well for the company and your work conditions will improve in the long run, thanks also (at least in part) to your meetings.

EDIT

After the comments received, just want to add a couple of points.

  • Skill and compentencies of OP are out of question, but not much relevant in this case IMO. People in companies has often a partial view depending on their role. So, if OP judges the meetings pointless, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are. Plus, if they really are, it's pretty strange that Mike is scheduling them and we are forced to assume that Mike can't make his job properly.
  • For OP: consider also that Mike might be your best ally. If you have blockers and problems in your daily work, but your management seemed to be willing to not take action, because they don't feel them very important, maybe Mike can vehicolate the right messagge. So, my suggestion is to spend time with him, let him fully understand what you need, because he is the guy that can change things. If you refuse his meetings, he might not take in much consideration your issues.
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    Surely we can expect the OP to have some expertise in their own domain? Problem solving and critical thinking are part of any job. This answer reads like you expect OP to be a mindless drone. – Lilienthal Oct 15 '20 at 11:23
  • @Lilienthal didn't get much your comment, care to elaborate further? – nicola Oct 15 '20 at 12:23
  • Your answer boils down to "you are wrong, it's not your place to say whether this meeting is useless but your manager". Perhaps if the OP was new to the workplace or way out of their depth I could see how he might have completely misread it. But that's certainly not the impression I'm getting. The OP is saying these meetings are useless because Mike doesn't realise his contributions are pointless and that's a judgement call OP is equipped to make as an IT professional. Maybe he's missing something but in that case Mike should be able to explain which he hasn't. – Lilienthal Oct 15 '20 at 21:45
  • To me this answer reads like "You're paid to work, not think, trust your betters and toe the party line." I don't see how the discussions described by the OP can relate to an unseen bigger picture, hence why I think you're off base here. – Lilienthal Oct 15 '20 at 21:46
  • @Lilienthal Thank you for your clarifications. I didn't intend to make any assessment of OP's skill and experience. It's just a matter of information IMO. Plus, if the meetings are really pointless, it's Mike that just wants to waste people's time. OP also has incentives to collaborate and I tried to describe them in the answer with the edit. – nicola Oct 16 '20 at 8:19

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