For those from a more formal culture where meetings are structured and ordered, meetings in Italy can often be seen as almost anarchic.
Meetings are usually informal gatherings and the smaller the meeting the less formal it is likely to be.
Agendas, if present, are extremely flexible with all members of the meeting taking an active role and with frequent interruptions, side conversations and people breaking off to answer mobile phone calls. Part way through the meeting, some of the delegates might leave whilst new participants arrive and join in with equal gusto.
Meetings can often seem to be for the formal ratification of a decision that has been made elsewhere and this is, indeed, often the case. Decisions will frequently be made in smaller pre-meeting lobbying sessions which take place prior to the larger meeting and in which much of the debate and dissension takes place. Therefore, in order to have influence in the final decision, it is often necessary to ensure participation in the pre-meeting meetings. Flying to Italy to debate a decision which has already been made is pointless.
Punctuality, although desirable, is less important than in certain other cultures. People will try to be punctual but other matters may come up which need personal attention and start times might be missed.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Italy only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.