An unusual meeting: the outcomes

In the previous post I explained how I structured a meeting about how to improve our team meetings. This time I focus on the unexpected outcomes that the ‘Stop, start and continue’ exercise highlighted.

Ivi0377 Ivi0376

Standing next to the flipchart I facilitate the discussion around interesting issues that the exercise raised. I decided to tackle first all the red areas and then move to the orange and green one.

On our flipchart there was a quite evident red area that covered one of the most frequent issue connected with meetings: duration. Most felt the meetings were currently too long and it was agreed to aim for an hour, unless critical items need to be discussed.

Another red area was concentrated around the reason for the meetings. Most asked for a clearer purpose and we agreed to use the meeting to discuss specific issues and receive information about topics discussed at the LSS Senior Management Team meeting. All felt that discussion time was an important part of a meeting and should be encouraged more.

The area of the agenda items was populated by a mixture of colours. We decided to save time on the updates from staff members and to circulate them ahead of the meeting while spending more time in the meeting for questions. Standing agenda items will be:

  • Chair’s communication (to include SMT updates)
  • Matters arising from previous meeting
  • Questions on updates from individual team members (circulated before the meeting)
  • Any other business

Moving to the orange area we agreed that current monthly frequency was felt to be right as well as the fact that actions should be assigned and followed up.

We recognised the importance of spending more time on the preparation of the meeting, for instance we will circulate suggested agenda items 2 weeks ahead for discussion. The chairperson will make sure that communications and documents are delivered and prepared consistently.

In the green area colleagues suggested to invite external guests and rotate the chairperson.

Overall I felt satisfied by the outcomes and the opportunity to share openly concerns and ideas. I am sure that our team is now stronger and more united than before. This was one of those rare opportunities to truly make a difference and we made it!

Advertisements

An unusual meeting about the format of our meetings

This morning I led a meeting about the format of our team meetings. Thanks to my open-minded manager I had the opportunity/freedom to run a session composed by practical exercises in order to let my team reflecting on our current format of our meetings.

I am proud of the way I run it because I used bits of ideas and inspirations from workshops I attended and readings about how to interact with students. I blended them together, shifted the focus on the main purpose of the meeting and hoped for the best.

In this post I am documenting how I have structured it, I’ll discuss the outcomes in next one.

Here is my recipe.

Uses: Getting my team reflecting on how we can improve our meetings.

Materials required: Flipchart, sticky notes in three colours (preferably green, red and yellow), pencils and scrap papers.

Ivi0375

  • Brain-warming exercise (3-4 min.): As warm up I asked my team to write their names down, vertically, on scrap papers (Francis, 2009:127-129). They had to create a sentence (even surreal) about the desirable outcomes of the session. I was impressed by the results. I was sorry for colleagues had to use “K” or “Y”, even if one came up with “Yes!” (I liked it!). My personal statement was:
    Federica
    Enhances
    Direct
    Experiments
    Regarding
    Implementing
    Communications
    Actively
    This brief session is absolutely beneficial for activating synapses that generate ideas, thoughts on the topic, needs and personal opinions.
  • Brainstorming (3 min.): The team had to write on a blank paper whatever was coming in their minds about the topic. In order to facilitate it I offered two general questions to reflect on:
    – What makes a meeting successful and worthwhile for you?
    – What are the problems and barriers that get in the way of effective meetings for you?
  • Stop, start, continue exercise (5 min.): This was the core exercise of the session, I followed Andrew Walsh’s tips (2010:33). I asked my team to identify the most important concepts they wrote on the paper and classify them using the sticky notes as follow.
    – Red = Stop doing (things done badly or inappropriately)
    – Yellow = Continue doing (things that are good)
    – Green = Start doing (things that we want to introduce or ideas)
    They wrote down their concepts/ideas and then stick them on the flip chart.

Cataloguing part (3-4 min.): Good time for a break while my manager and me sorted out and grouped ideas together. Basically our cataloguing job. Look at the result.

Ivi0376

I’ll discuss the outcomes in the next post. Just to say that my manager’s manager asked me to run this session also for another team. So exciting!

References

Francis, P. (2009). Inspiring writing in art and design : taking a line for a write. Oxford, Intellect Books.

Walsh, A., Inala P. (2010). Active learning techniques for librarians : practical examples. Oxford, Chandos.

What should we ‘start, stop and continue’?

I have recently been to a workshop about how to organise effective meeting and I am going to suggest some ideas for the tomorrow meeting about the structure of our team meetings. I am glad that my team come to the conclusion that our meetings need a review. Tomorrow I am going to facilitate the meeting and the discussion. This is how I am going to structure the exercise review:

  1. Ask each person to identify 5 parts/qualities of our meeting (i.e. communication chairs, updates, actions, AOB, length, effective actions…). Write them on post it.
  2. Group similar parts/qualities together on the wall.
  3. Evaluate each group by asking: What should we ‘start, stop and continue’?

It’s just an idea but I think it will be good to visualize how the meeting is perceived, and then review what isn’t working, and (eventually) celebrate success.

Results are expected tomorrow.

Effective meetings

General Grant’s Council of War, Massaponax Church, Virginia by Timothy H. O’Sullivan © MoMA

What do you think is necessary to make effective meetings? This morning I attended to a workshop about this topic and I am sharing just few notes about it. There are a number of factors that determine the actual efficacy. One of the secret is the length: a meeting should be long enough to cover specific topics but short enough to be interesting and participative. Another one is setting a clear purpose.

A meeting journey is composed by three phases: pre-meeting/preparation –> actual meeting –> follow-up/actions.

There are three main roles: the chairperson, the minute taker and participants. Obviously the main character in meetings is played by the chairperson who has to engage participants, setting the tone and keep the meeting on track.

The minute taker plays an important role because he is forced to be an active listener and has to use specific skills such as accuracy, objectivity and the ability of selecting what it is relevant.

Finally the participants. They should be active and engaged with discussions and updates. Their suggestions and feedback should be valuable, open and constructive.

It’s quite easy to remark factors that led to a bad meeting. This is my (negative) top 5. On the other hands, this could be my positive top five if you turn the points upside down.

5) Meetings with a weak agenda. Often repetitive and dull.

4) Chairperson/colleague who does not allow others to speak, also classified as “the talker” or “know all” or “I judge you”.

3) Weak chairperson without any prior preparation. Usually this category of people is not able to control meetings and the length of the time.

2) I am personally annoyed when I spot a colleague checking his ipad/laptop for news or emails. If you are attending at a meeting at least pretend to be interested and leave your ipad/laptop in the office, unless it’s essential to your role.

1) No actions taken. Ok so what’s the point of a meeting? It’s a waste of time for everyone.