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.

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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!

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.