October 30, 2014 Leave a comment
No one wants another meeting, especially a non-productive session. To ensure that your meetings are anticipated, respected, and more productive than the meeting your participants came from or the meeting they are headed to next, do the following, at minimum (listed chronologically):
- Start on Time
Do not penalize people who are on time by waiting for people who are late. Few irritants get a meeting started poorly than a wavering start time. Ask participants to notify you in advance if they might be late. If they arrive late, do NOT consume others’ time by reviewing what has transpired. If an update is required, pair them off with someone else and ask them to go in the hallway to provide an update.
If it was not documented then it did not happen. Meetings without documentation suggest that nothing worthwhile happened. Optimally, add context and rationale for why topics are covered or decisions make. Take any decision to a steering team or decision review board and their first challenge will be “Why?” Carefully leave a paper trail for the reasons.
- Time Sensitivity
While participants should typically share a few laughs, real meeting success is judged by finishing on time, or better yet, ahead of schedule. Be careful about taking on strategic issues during a brief meeting, they should be logged and set aside for a longer forum. Do not allow participants to go into too much detail, that others find irrelevant. They can build and provide concrete details on their own. Remember too, that ‘standing’ meetings (ie, meetings held regularly at the same time every week) were originally intended for participants to stand and not sit. Standing meetings get done a lot faster.
- Agenda Control
Stay vigilant about following the agenda. In other words, stay in scope. Many meetings are consumed with arguments about the project, the organization, or other issues beyond the control and scope of the participants. Participants that talk about what they want gives rise to the concept of people “who have their own agenda.” Stick to your agenda and monitor progress carefully.
- Visual Support
Stimulate participants and discussion with the proper use of easels and supplementary visuals. Do not however rely on a deck of slides. People can read and challenge slide decks on their own, they do not need a meeting for that. Build slides that share causal links and supplement with visuals that stimulate. A visually dynamic meeting offers ‘sex appeal’ compared to others.
- Secure Feedback
Get audible agreement, beginning with ground rules. Document decision points, preferably on large-scale poster size paper or white boards. As you build consensus, emphasize that consensus implies a quality decision that ALL participants can support, but NOT one that necessarily makes everyone happy. Consensus is something they can live with, and not disrupt in the hallways after the meeting.
- Careful Review
Upon conclusion, carefully review and confirm that everyone understands next steps. If the meeting changes nothing, it was not needed. Make the change or assignments visible and consider using a RASI chart for support. If follow-up meeting(s) are required, confirm future dates, times, and locations. Most importantly, conclude on time, or preferably, early. Before they depart, secure additional feedback on what you could have done to make the meeting even more successful. For solid and anonymous feedback, use our Post-it© note approach combined with the t-Chart called Plus-Delta for more meaningful input than is typically provided in public, when participants may not want to “embarrass” you with their criticism.
By following the suggestions above you can circumvent the three most common complaints about meetings, namely:
- Disorganized (ie, uncertain output or outcome)
- Length (ie, wasted time)
- Predetermined decisions (meetings are a poor form of persuasion)
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.