Run Better Meetings

Phase 1. Assessment (Pretest)

During this phase, we figure out where the low hanging fruit are on problem tree. We figure out the nature of the problems and formulate a plan of action by:

Having participants fill out an assessment,

Going through an interview process, and

Debriefing and building a consensus with the stakeholders.

Phase 2. Improving The Process

While an assessment increases awareness and builds the need for change, it does little to actually change meeting behavior. Learning how to conduct effective meetings requires training, facilitation and coaching. And of course, it requires practice with feedback.

Phase 3. Lessons Learned (Post-Test)

It’s important to assess what improved and what remains to be done. Developing effective meeting behaviors are like changing a bad habit—it takes a while, missteps are likely, and set backs are inevitable. That’s why it is important to run assessments to determine what improved and what has not.

Phase 1: The Meeting Assessment

“The Law of Triviality … means that the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to its importance.” — C Northcote Parkinson

Phase 2: Improve the Major Three Process

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties: You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” — Phyllis Bottome

New learning is important to conducting effective meetings. We have an extensive set of curriculum that provides the kind of knowledge necessary to prevent misfires during meetings. Typically, we focus on three ineffective and inefficient meeting processes.

Folllow a Better Meeting Process

An effective meeting cycles through three phases: a beginning, middle and end. Commonly, the person running the meeting botches both the beginning and the end. And what occurs in the middle could function as a cure for insomnia. Sad to say, most managers cannot manage their own meetings.

Improve The Problem Solving Process

You have probably heard this lie. It goes, “Managers are decision markers.” The truth is, “Executives are decision makers, managers are problem solvers.” While I learned many things in my MBA program, one glaring omission was how to solve complex operational problems. Evidently, most business majors were also robbed of this critical knowledge. For how else would explain managers addiction to “band-aid management?”

Avoid Using Band-Aids. The term is a metaphor for a fixing the problem by not fixing the problem. The problem is contained rather than permanently fixed, it reoccurs later. It’s similar to bleeding from a cut. Rather than suturing the cut, a band-aid gets slapped on it. This causes the bleeding to stop for awhile. Eventually, the band-aid falls off the bleeding starts again. Many organizations suffer from financial death by thousands of cuts.

Play Better Better Communication Roles

This is the most subtle, the most difficult, the one requiring the most skill—a skill many skilled facilitators. It is subtle because many of the communication issues bedeviling groups are neither noticed nor discussed. For example, Chairs generally ignore a long list of bad role behavior such as blocking, bitching or interrupting. Even personality characteristics such as introversion or extroversion greatly impact meeting efficiency. The person who talks unceasingly but adds nothing, is as must a problem as the silent person who contributes nothing while occupying the chair consuming oxygen and coffee.

Phase 3: Lessons Learned

In this phase one needs to stop and take a look at process. 

Readings on Meetings

Harte, Susan (1990). “What wastes $37 billion a year?” The Ventura County Star Free Press.. 25 February 1990.

Elton, Martin (1982). Teleconferencing: New Media for Business Meetings. New York: AMA Publications Division.

Fletcher, Winston (1983). Meetings, Meetings. New York: William Marrow.

3M Meeting Management Team (1987). How to Run Better Business Meetings: A Reference Guide for Managers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kirkpatrick, Donald (1987). How to Plan and Conduct Productive Meetings. New York: AMACOM.

Lawson, John (1980). When you Preside. Danville, IL: The Interstate Printers

Sigband, Norman (1985). Meeting with success. Personnel Journal, 64: (5), pg. 48-55.

Work Skills For the 21st Century