Case study: Feed­back

(see p. 42)

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The fol­low­ing com­ments are pro­vided as food for thought. Dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions are, of course, pos­si­ble.

What are the main prob­lems that Jean-pierre has iden­ti­fied with the con­fer­ence calls?

The main prob­lems that Jean-pierre sees with his team’s meet­ings are ones that are com­monly re­ported: poor au­dio qual­ity from those us­ing mo­bile phones, a lack of sup­port for other peo­ple’s roles, poor prepa­ra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion, and peo­ple leav­ing early be­cause of their fam­ily com­mit­ments.

What other fac­tors could be caus­ing the prob­lems? It is pos­si­ble that other fac­tors are ei­ther gen­er­at­ing the prob­lems that Jean-pierre ob­serves or that other more fun­da­men­tal prob­lems are in play. First, the un­even­ness of prepa­ra­tion and pre­sen­ta­tions dur­ing the meet­ings may be the re­sult of a lack of a stan­dard tem­plate and for­mat. It seems that team mem­bers are free to pre­pare their own pre­sen­ta­tions to dif­fer­ent lev­els of de­tail. Jean-pierre needs to de­fine a clear tem­plate and model for what has to be re­ported. Also, send­ing the pre­sen­ta­tions in ad­vance would mean the calls could fo­cus more on ques­tions rather than be­ing a plat­form for pre­sen­ta­tions.

The fail­ure of peo­ple to col­lab­o­rate in the calls may be be­cause of the ways in which their roles are struc­tured. Al­though Jean-pierre wants peo­ple to sup­port each other with ideas, this may not be in peo­ple’s job de­scrip­tions. The coun­try heads there­fore may not see it as their re­spon­si­bil­ity to gen­er­ate ideas for oth­ers — they are all busy enough with their own roles. Also, a lack of knowl­edge about each other’s mar­kets might be mak­ing peo­ple re­luc­tant to speak up out of fear that they might say the wrong thing.

Jean-pierre is also invit­ing a lot of peo­ple to the meet­ing, which makes it more chal­leng­ing to con­duct an in­ter­ac­tive, cre­ative ses­sion. Large num­bers are more suit­able for brief­ings. If Jean-pierre wants cre­ativ­ity, he should per­haps have more reg­u­lar, smaller and shorter calls.

An­other fac­tor is that the tim­ing of the call re­flects a com­mon Paris practice of hav­ing longer meet­ings on Fri­day af­ter­noon to wrap up the week or month. This is not stan­dard in other Euro­pean coun­tries, where Fri­day af­ter­noon may sooner be seen as the start of the week­end and fam­ily time. Jean-pierre may need to con­sider hav­ing the call at a dif­fer­ent time.

Au­dio qual­ity can in­deed be a prob­lem when peo­ple con­nect to con­fer­ence calls via mo­biles. But it is fair for Jean-pierre to ex­pect join­ers to use a sta­ble con­nec­tion. This sim­ply re­quires some plan­ning by the par­tic­i­pants.

To what ex­tent do you think Jean-pierre’s email will solve these prob­lems? What could he do bet­ter? There is a se­ri­ous dan­ger that the very di­rect and ac­cusatory tone of Jean-pierre’s email — in­clud­ing his use of cap­i­tal letters — will in­flame emo­tions among the coun­try heads. This could make it more dif­fi­cult to find so­lu­tions and to en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion and sup­port. It would be more help­ful if Jean-pierre were to ask for feed­back from the oth­ers on the con­fer­ence calls and ask for their sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ments. Us­ing one of the calls to dis­cuss com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sues — in­clud­ing the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants, the style and length of pre­sen­ta­tions, and the tim­ing and length of the calls — would be a good first step to­wards cre­at­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tion cul­ture that ev­ery­one can buy into.

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