Jan 14, 2016 MEET ℠ : Tools and Strategies for Meeting Success
Many of us experience the recurrent dread of attending unproductive inefficient meetings. The time and resources spent on meetings is prodigious. Senior level management spends greater than 50% of their time in meetings. The rest of us typically spend one third of our working hours in meetings. Seventy percent of meetings are considered non productive. Estimates suggest over $35 billion dollars are wasted on ineffective meetings. Over 90 % of people admit to multitasking during meetings which means they are not engaged. If none of these facts surprise you and your experience at work supports this data, then use MEET ℠: Meeting Effectiveness and Efficiency Training.
MEET ℠ creates the substrate for productive meetings through comprehensive education. MEET ℠ lays the foundation of meetings from choosing the right leader of the group and the best participants, to choosing the proper venue and creating useful preparatory materials. MEET ℠ educates about the requisite operational methodology to ensure peak efficiency and productivity.
MEET ℠ on leadership: selecting the best leader of the group to achieve operational excellence is crucial! The most important character traits of a leader in a meeting are being credible and fair. The nicest person who is liked by all, is not necessarily the best person for the job. The gregarious manager often viewed as congenial and appeasing may not be able to guide and lead a meeting effectively. Effective managing requires a firm hand and sometimes both inspiring and challenging the team. Choose a decisive leader. The leader benefits from having subject matter expertise but that is not a requisite element. In many legal committees and under the Rules of Order, a committee chair is not permitted to speak to the substance of the item on the agenda to avoid the perception of being partisan. Being the leader of a meeting requires skills of guiding discussion to a conclusion without necessarily participating directly.
MEET ℠ on participants: choosing the right membership. Key stakeholders need to be in the room. Inviting someone to a meeting just to not hurt their feelings or for political correctness can be counterproductive. Inviting people to just “hear” the discussion or just be there is not desirable. Send minutes of the meeting to those who need to be informed but do not need to participate directly. Invite peripherally involved members of the team to do periodic reports without being permanent attendees. Choosing the right number of members is crucial. A room with 30 participants is a lecture or seminar not a meeting. Meaningful participation cannot occur in a gargantuan forum. No more than 10 to 12 people is a reasonable target. If warranted, subcommittees or subgroups can always be formed to narrow the scope of deliberations or to assess specific problems.
MEET ℠on the forum and methods of meeting: choosing the venue for the meeting should be carefully considered. In person interaction, conference calling, web conferencing are all options which should be evaluated. The ultimate choice should be based on the importance and nature of the task at hand. Real time face to face interaction should be reserved for team building, brainstorming and high priority topics; this means that the in person dynamic should be infrequently utilized. Cooperative team function and collegial relations are crucial for business success but not all matters being considered require face to face meetings
MEET ℠ on preparation before the meeting: provide the goals of the meeting and agenda in advance. Clearly defined and articulated goals of the meeting are the most important key to success. If the goal of the meeting is primarily informational or for an update, consider a different means of communication. Most informational updates can be distributed through emails.
Make sure prep materials are distributed to allow enough time for participants to review. Any attempt at a meeting to ask people to review a document in real time including review of previous minutes is inefficient. The entire point of advance distribution of the agenda and preparatory materials is for those attending to digest, review and give careful consideration to the items at hand. Trying to come up with true insightful solutions to problems in real time is difficult. Advance careful consideration is crucial.
MEET ℠ on running the meeting: creating efficient structured operations is crucial. Make sure that the meeting is carefully managed with each agenda item being allocated a specific time and each speaker being given a reasonable time to make their point. Use an adversarial discussion methodology. After a reasonable time is spent on an agenda item, only allow additional discussion if there is ongoing disagreement. Allow continuing conversation by alternating speakers for and against the issue before the group. Listening to 5 people who agree with the previous speaker is not productive. A robust and complete analysis is achieved by encouraging the vetting of all perspectives. Final reports or recommendations which are generated should include minority or dissenting opinions. If future reassessment is needed, the dissenting opinions can form a basis for a new strategy or approach. There are those who believe that the MEET recommendations suggested are too prescriptive and limit the free flow of ideas. Obviously the enforcement of rigid meeting structure must be tailored to the circumstances. A brainstorming or creative session with a white board needs a different approach than the monthly department meeting.
MEET ℠ on common problems: often a member gets on a soap box and drones on and on. Knowing glances from the majority of meeting participants suggest the oncoming verbal outpouring. The use of a timer with visual and auditory cues may reign in outliers. The chair should politely but firmly control the discussion. Collegiality has its limits. Sometimes participants stray off topic and discuss items not on the agenda. The leader needs to keep the group on focus. Without preparation and planning going off topic undermines the deliberative process that make meetings effective.
MEET ℠on wrapping up: end every meeting with, a summary, list of action items, the identification of who is responsible for each item and a timeline for completion. Distribute minutes of the meeting not at the next meeting but the same day as the meeting took place and ask for corrections. All action items, responsible personnel and timelines should be bolded or highlighted. The minutes can act as a "to do" list for those who have attended. The promulgation also creates accountability.
MEET ℠ describes a philosophy and methodology of meetings which creates the milieu for highly efficient and productive collegial interactions. The above points are highlights of the MEET ℠ program. Take these MEET ℠ suggestions to your organization and stop dreading those recurring meetings.
Nicolas Argy, MD, JDHealth/Business Consultant/Educator, Patient Safety, Quality, Risk Management, Public Health Advocate