Feeling Lonely? Call a Meeting – more from the world of meetings

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.

Feeling lonely today? Let’s call a meeting. Continue reading

Do You Meet with Your Staff Regularly? – make these meetings more productive

A recent article in the New York Times business section, “You’re the Boss: the art of running a small business”, by Paul Downs, “The Comment That Changed My Business” spoke of this owner’s experience with holding weekly meetings with his employees. In the 24 year history of this company, they had never held regular employee meetings. Mr. Downs reported on how successful these now are for him.

His story reminded me of my own experiences with meetings. Here is one that is germane to Mr. Downs’ story.

I used Stand Up Meetings for staff. Continue reading

Meetings – The Drama Model

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?”

Meetings – First – Don’t Have Them

Second in a series on meetings:

No matter where you are in the food chain, meetings are critical to success as a manager. It is important to know how to initiate, lead, and participate in meetings. This series of Management Notes on meetings addresses some basic concepts and skills.

First things first – most meetings should not take place.

Any meeting that is about the status of, or problems with, a regular business process or activity is an indicator that you should solve the process problem. Good processes provide status indicators that can be seen by whomever needs to know, without a meeting. Recurrent problems should be eliminated, not treated as a moment for management to rush in to save the day. If you are in charge of, or have influence over a process that is producing meetings, then take those meetings as a directive for you to get to work on fixing the process.

Now is a good point to note that meetings don’t just take place in conference rooms. When a person in your department stops you in the hallway, or props themselves up outside your doorway, and says, “Can we talk about the Big Bonanza Project?”, you are about to have a meeting. When there is a flurry or emails and instant messages about a project, customer, or whatever, you are having a meeting.

Beware of meetings that you as a manger generate. Ask yourself whether your meetings fall into the categories noted above. Be disciplined about any meeting where the key outcome is to “keep you in the loop”.

Meetings – Understanding The Shapes and Roles

First in a series.

No matter where you are in the food chain, meetings are critical to success as a manager. It is important to know how to initiate, lead, and participate in meetings. This series of Management Notes on meetings addresses some basic concepts and skills.

But, first, lets start with some discussion of exactly what a meeting is and how meetings function in our organizational lives.

Meetings come in many forms: meetings in conference rooms, in the hallway or parking lot, or over lunch. Email, especially the emails with lengthy lists of recipients and responders, those seemingly endless threaded discussions, present a new form of “meeting”. Instant messaging and, more frequently in dispersed organizations, video conferencing are new forms of meetings.

Meetings can range in size from two people to thousands.

Meetings can be formal with agendas, moderators, chairpersons, and written rules of conduct. Meetings can also be informal, impromptu, and fluid.

Meetings serve a wide range of functions in an organization. Formal meetings may be just for the dissemination of organizational news, policies, or procedures. Formal meetings may also be information gathering, problem-solving, and task setting events. Formal meetings are frequently regular opportunities for teams to check the status and critical actions required to keep a project, business unit or whole organization on track.

Informal meetings provide opportunities for exchange of views on the state of the organization, queries for information, requests for comment, critique, new ideas, challenges to the existing beliefs about the organization, and so on.

In every case the culture of the organization is being displayed, exercised, and critiqued in meetings. Meetings display clearly what is valued and prized by the culture. The way in which people conduct themselves displays how the organization values people and the way in which people should interact. Meetings also are the key arena for the robust dialogue that keeps every organization faced towards the reality of its performance, its customers, the changing environment, and the competition. Meetings require candor and honesty to be effective.

This suggests that managers must pay close attention to how they personally perform in meetings, meetings of all types, and, perhaps, especially in the informal meetings.

This suggests further that effective managers understand how important it is to have meetings that are productive and carried out in a manner that reflects the most positive interactions between people.

Effective managers also see meetings as an opportunity to diagnose the health of business processes as well as the culture and an opportunity to change behavior and achieve better results.