Make Meetings Work

Online, offline, teleconference, watercooler …

PURPOSE:  My first recommendation is that any meeting must have a clear purpose.  That purpose will influence how the meeting is prepared for, who should attend, and how it is followed up.

PROCESS:  How the meeting will proceed should fit its purpose and the purpose should be understood by the team along with what activities will be employed to accomplish that purpose.

RESPONSIBILITY:  Each team member must understand their responsibility as it relates to each activity and to the core purpose of the meeting.  Part of that responsibility is to be willing to speak up when others may not be doing their part.  All people attending a meeting are responsible for its success.  Clarifying purpose and responsibilities is the role of the leader.  But each team member owes allegiance to that clarity.

“DEATH BY MEETING: A Leadership fable” is a book by Patrick Lencioni (page 365):

 “The single biggest problem facing leaders of meetings is the tendency to throw every type of issue that needs to be discussed into the same meeting.”

He discusses four types of meetings with different purposes and time horizons.  Great book – easy to read (it’s a business novel).  Lencioni has other good books too, like “The Five Dysfunctions of a TEAM: A Leadership fable”.  He points out that the lack of constructive conflict is one sign of dysfunction caused by a lack of trust.

CRITICAL-THINKING:  Critical-thinking meetings begin after making sure the team’s purpose is the right one for their current situation.  For a Problem Solving discussion: Is the team trying to decide on an INTERIM action aimed at the effects of a problem?  Or do they know the cause and can move on to an evaluation of CORRECTIVE actions focused on removing the cause of the problem?  When teams are led by critical-thinking, they proceed using key questions in the right sequence.   We have found that people easily participate when asked clear, relevant questions aimed at tapping their observations (facts), understanding, and judgment as needed.

Richard C. Wells
VP Research & Developmen
Business Processes Inc.
“Results Through Systematic Thinking”