On our third day of the ZEP’s placement, we had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the local policy makers. Armed with my experience of policy meetings at EU level, I had the interesting opportunity to compare the two types of organisation.
Let’s start with the policy meetings at EU level…
Quite formal and organised, each Member State and stakeholder has a “table name” that is put on its vertical position for asking the floor. Suddenly, your name becomes the one from the country or organisation you represents.
> “Germany, you have the floor!” How sexy….
Even though some conflicting debates may come up, interruption rarely happens and the chair manages the speaking time so that everyone has a chance to express himself.
Micros are also dealt in an organised way, as it is not possible to use more than two micros at the same time. If someone forgets to turn it off or dares to speak without the micro, it is nicely but quickly highlighted to him.
Finally, presentations are rarely interrupted, with potential questions being asked at the end. In case someone does not correctly estimate the time of its presentation or exceeds the allocated time, the chairman gently intervene at one point.
What about the policy meetings in the Philippines?
I just had the opportunity to attend one at local level, so my judgement is more limited. However, this is what I could spot.
Although it seems to be accepted that the chair has the priority, the person taking the floor is the one speaking the loudest.
Interruption seems to be accepted, either during presentation or debates, while jokes are commonly made during the discussions.
Micros are randomly used and, when used, the loudest then becomes… louder!
On the other hand, some people prefer to whisper questions to the presenters’ buddy rather than the whole assembly.
Finally, the chairman sometimes needs to use his gavel in order to request silence or adjourn the meeting.
This would be the best conclusion following this comparison:
Policy meetings are interesting indicators for cultural variation! In that particular case, there are two types of organisation for two quite opposite cultures.
Does that mean that what we would call the “un-organised” meeting is less efficient?
I am sure a lot of people would say so… and yet…
My limited experience in Philippino meetings does not allow me to judge them objectively, but when it comes to EU meetings, order and organisation do not always rhyme with efficiency.
Some people can talk for hours without being interrupted, but does not necessarily provide relevant information. What I call the “blah blah” can be used quite often in order to show an appearance of “decision making” which in the end is not really concretised, or takes a lot of time for being implemented.
In any case, as final and personal statement, I would say that the Philippino meeting, although less organised, was much more interactive to see; not counting Philippino’s hospitality!