MEATY meet­ings

With­out proper fo­cus, plan­ning events be­come worth­less time-wasters

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

ANY­ONE who reg­u­larly chairs a meet­ing has cer­tainly heard about the well-known video called Meet­ings, Meet­ings, Bloody Meet­ings, star­ring the fa­mous John Cleese.

In the video, Cleese clev­erly uses in­sight and humour to demon­strate a num­ber of el­e­ments com­monly ex­pe­ri­enced in un­pro­duc­tive meet­ings. While we can laugh at the an­tics dis­played in the video, I will guar­an­tee there are many of us who find the is­sue of un­pro­duc­tive meet­ings far from funny.

Ac­tu­ally, I find un­pro­duc­tive meet­ings a waste of my pro­fes­sional time and quite frankly, I feel in­sulted by them. What am I so cranky about? First of all, I re­sent at­tend­ing a meet­ing where none of the at­ten­dees come pre­pared. In spite of the fact the chair­man or chair­woman sent ma­te­ri­als to par­tic­i­pants ahead of time, it seems that few peo­ple ac­tu­ally do their home­work. Thus, since no one is ready to con­trib­ute to a dis­cus­sion and/ or make a de­ci­sion, this means that too much time will be spent on ques­tions and ex­pla­na­tions of the is­sue at hand.

You guessed it: In­stead of a meet­ing du­ra­tion of 1.5 hours, a meet­ing such as this will ex­tend to three to four hours. Not only that, as de­ci­sion time ar­rives, some of the par­tic­i­pants will have al­ready ex­cused them­selves, thus fail­ing to leave be­hind a quo­rum. There­fore, no par­tic­i­pants — no votes — no de­ci­sion. The item is then car­ried for­ward on the next meet­ing agenda and we all leave frus­trated.

Se­condly, I find it es­pe­cially tir­ing when par­tic­i­pants talk on and on about var­i­ous de­tails, but seem to miss the whole point. They don’t seem to un­der­stand what their own is­sue is re­ally all about and can’t seem to iso­late the de­tails from the un­der­ly­ing is­sue it­self. Then, as you might ex­pect, lis­ten­ers get lost in the dis­cus­sion and be­come con­fused, an­noyed and anx­ious to “get on with it.” Once again, this type of meet­ing will drag on and on un­til par­tic­i­pants be­gin to ex­cuse them­selves and the quo­rum of vot­ers slowly but surely be­gins to dis­ap­pear.

What about the meet­ing agenda? Frankly, I find that many meet­ing agen­das are ac­tu­ally quite poorly or­ga­nized. Ev­ery year, leader af­ter leader takes on the role of chair­man, but most sim­ply stick with the old for­mat and carry on. And so you will find de­ci­sions that must be made are ei­ther sprin­kled all over the agenda and/or are left for last. As you can imag­ine, if the first two of my com­plaints oc­cur at the same time as a poor agenda, the meet­ing is no longer three to four hours but may even take up the en­tire day. Meet­ings, meet­ings, bloody meet­ings!

What sage ad­vice would bring an end to un­pro­duc­tive meet­ings? The fol­low­ing strate­gies will help you go a long way to­ward en­sur­ing your meet­ings are ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive:

En­sure the peo­ple as­signed to your meet­ings have gen­uine in­ter­est and will take re­spon­si­bil­ity for do­ing their home­work. If you have time, send a re­minder email and/or have some­one call to re­mind them about the im­por­tance of their read­ings.

Re­ar­range your agenda so that im­por­tant de­ci­sions are made at the start of the meet­ing. In­clude sec­tions re­ferred to as: For de­ci­sion; For dis­cus­sion; and For in­for­ma­tion. Set a time limit for each area as this pro­vides guid­ance for both the chair­man and par­tic­i­pants.

Cre­ate a doc­u­ment called an “is­sue sheet.” Train your par­tic­i­pants to use it un­til it is etched in their minds and they can think strate­gi­cally in this man­ner. The “is­sue sheet” asks the fol­low­ing ques­tions. What is the is­sue, the prob­lem, the chal­lenge or ob­sta­cle that you wish the meet­ing to deal with? What is the im­pact on your or­ga­ni­za­tion? What are some po­ten­tial so­lu­tions that you have iden­ti­fied and/or wish the par­tic­i­pants to dis­cuss? What is your rec­om­men­da­tion and what is your ra­tio­nale? This is­sue sheet will pre­vent peo­ple from “go­ing on and on” about their topic and will lend sig­nif­i­cant ef­fi­ciency to your meet­ing.

Pre­pare mock mo­tions for each of the is­sues ahead of time to make your meet­ing more ef­fi­cient, be­cause the par­tic­i­pants will only need to tinker with the mo­tion rather than cre­ate the state­ment on the spot. This also makes tak­ing min­utes more ef­fi­cient.

Con­firm the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process for your com­mit­tee; fol­low it con­sis­tently.

Should a meet­ing be called for a spe­cific pur­pose, be sure that ev­ery­one un­der­stands what that pur­pose is, that they are sent the ap­pro­pri­ate doc­u­ments for re­view and they come pre­pared for a thor­ough dis­cus­sion.

Refuse to ac­cept at­tendee late­ness, as this can be one of the most dis­rup­tive forces in a meet­ing.

If peo­ple are work­ing in a ge­o­graph­i­cally dis­persed environment, use new tech­nol­ogy such as Skype to en­sure in­clu­sive­ness.

En­sure the chair­man has the skills to fa­cil­i­tate dis­cus­sion and keep things on track.

Stop con­flict in its tracks. If an is­sue is go­ing to re­quire more time, more ex­am­i­na­tion and more dis­cus­sion, stop the dis­cus­sion and ta­ble it for an up­com­ing meet­ing.

Es­tab­lish a set time frame for the meet­ing and stick to it; items not ad­dressed will need to be moved to the next meet­ing and/or as­signed to a sub­com­mit­tee.

Sum­ma­rize and doc­u­ment your ac­tion items and dis­trib­ute the min­utes as soon as pos­si­ble be­fore peo­ple for­get what they have com­mit­ted to.

Con­duct an eval­u­a­tion at the end of ev­ery meet­ing; as­sess your own per­sonal par­tic­i­pa­tion as well as that of oth­ers.

Meet­ings, meet­ings, bloody meet­ings — the scourge of or­ga­ni­za­tions ev­ery­where.

While we can laugh at the video star­ring Cleese, ev­ery­one knows that in­ef­fi­cient meet­ings are re­ally no laugh­ing mat­ter. Now is the time to re­view your meet­ing suc­cesses and fail­ures; de­velop a new strat­egy to start off your fall sea­son with a bang.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.