Recently I was talking with two clients (partners in an engineering firm) about meetings. In particular were the meetings that one of their customers was calling on short notice with no formal purpose with a cast of thousands. We were puzzling through the various ways they could handle customers who think that it is alright to have meetings that take up lots of time and only really involve my clients occasionally for their input and expertise.
Third in a series on meetings.
Think of meetings as dramas. Meetings should follow the basic shape of almost all dramas and movies. Act One sets the scene and hooks us into the action, introduces the characters, tells us what the drama is about, provides us with all of the information that allows us to participate. The Act Two is conflict. Discussions break out, issues parsed, pruned, and analyzed. The Act Three is resolution. The culprit gets his comeuppance, the love interest is played out, and so on.
In the world of organizations, the resolution, Act Three, is usually a set of tasks. Those accountable are clearly noted, deadlines set, resources committed, metrics for success defined, and the date for follow-up put on the calendar.
In a business drama, every formal meeting needs to have an objective, an agenda, time, place, leader, and participants. All of this must be made available to everyone involved before the meeting takes place. This provides the participants with time to review the agenda, gather information, think about the problem, in short, get ready to participate and not just appear at the meeting.
The leader of a meeting needs to think through each act. A key element of Act One is the hook. Everyone must understand very early in the meeting that something significant is at stake. This draws them into the meeting and gets them ready to participate vigorously.
Once you have applied this dramatic model to your formal meetings, think about how you can apply this to the informal meetings. Frequently, in contrast to formal meetings where Act One is critical, informal meetings fall down on Act Three, the resolution. How often do you walk away from a casual conversation about a project problem and wonder “What was that about and who is really responsible for bringing closure to the problem?”