Best Practice Meetings

Posted by jlubans on October 10, 2017

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Drilling down, as they say, into an anthropological study of business meetings, I found a few takeaways, ones I could have used when I was chairing and taking part in the many meetings of my lengthy career.
Meetings would not score well on Yelp. Maybe a 1.5 out of 5. Almost as bad as long distance movers whose sins are the stuff of customer disservice legend.
Sure, there are those 10% of meetings that click; something gets done!
One professional association – of which I was a very busy member – could only meet in certain cities. Why? Not enough meeting rooms. While many cities had beds for 10,000 or more conventioneers, my association required thousands of meetings rooms.
Was this good? Well, if the meetings got anything done it could be very good. But, having sat through hundreds I can assure you little got done. I suppose people felt busy and that has some rewards in itself, but busy-ness is not always correlated with productivity. Indeed, it may work in reverse – the more busy, the less done.
Again, my 10% rule applied, when the stars aligned, things clicked and decisions were made; new ideas were born and supported. The other 90% were in dire need of the oxygen masks in the cartoon.
You know you are in trouble when there are groups charged with meeting about meetings, as there were in my association.
Here’s how-to-improve meetings from an anthropological perspective:
1. Hold accountable everyone at the meeting. What does this mean? Be prepared. Even in a “culture of collaboration” the individual cannot dodge the responsibility to be informed (IOW, read the background) and to have thought through matters relevant to the purpose of the meeting.
A sure sign of in-effectiveness is the desire to hear all sides of the problem. Quantity of information does not trump quality of information.
2. Empower the leader. Make known who will decide on meeting outcomes. Make clear that decisions are indeed expected – this is not a discussion group. Avoid situations where “guests” hijack the meeting and “force the team into a spiral of blackness.”
Other basic recommendations from the anthropologist’s analysis:
1. Ensure that all meeting invites include basic information. That’s so “that people have the tools they need to come prepared. If people are not prepared, ask them.”
2. “Invite participants, not spectators. And don't be afraid to ask people to leave if they weren't invited.”
3. “Create spaces that are conducive to meetings, this includes stand-up tables and clocks for meeting rooms. Not every meeting requires a giant table: giving smaller groups the flexibility to huddle can help move projects along.”
4. Schedule shorter meetings. “If a status (sic) can occur in 15 minutes, you really don't need 30 minutes just so folks can chat about The Walking Dead.”
5. “Call an audible when the meeting is over. Despite what we believe, we are terrible multitaskers.
When the meeting has completed its objectives, it's over. Send participants away.”
The anthropologist gives us much to think about and much to take action on.
No, there is no reason to meet on this!
___________________
Fables for Leaders, with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron and designed by ALISE ŠNĒBAHA, launched September 30, 2017 ($26.99).
Ezis Press
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783
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© Copyright John Lubans 2017

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