Meetings are for the sole purpose of making decisions. Sharing information is important, but there are many far more efficient and cost effective ways to do it.
As an aside, unnecessary meetings are frequently excused by “But if I send a memo, no one reads it.” That is a management problem that won’t be solved by meetings. Important information is better communicated in writing. If it isn’t worth reading, it shouldn’t be distributed. If it is, the recipients have to read it.
The disconnect comes either when people perceive the memo to be valueless, but don’t want to hurt the sender’s feelings by saying so; or when someone who needs to know the information has to be spoon fed because he or she doesn’t accept the responsibility for staying informed. The answer to both is the same. Address the behavior, not the means of communication.
Decisions made in meetings are too often lost, dropped, or poorly implemented. Again with the help of my readers (especially Ed Bierschenck and Jim Marshall), here are some tips on developing effective action plans.
Get verbal acknowledgement from the entire group. Make sure everyone is on the same page. We often gloss over this because we know one person still holds an opposing opinion. That is unacceptable. Once an action has been agree upon, everyone must support it whether they fully agree or not. (See my post “We’ll Just Agree to Disagree.”)
Define responsibility by asking the person assigned to execute or lead the task to repeat back what he or she understands the goal to be. Write it down for the meeting notes in the words of the person responsible, not those of the highest ranking person in the room.
Set a completion date. If the ultimate goal is further out than the next scheduled meeting, set a concrete interim objective for completion.
Document goal progress at every meeting. If it’s worth spending the money to bring people together for a decision, it is worth following up. If the task is on track you can skip any detailed explanation, but variances from budget or schedule should be explained.
Celebrate accomplishments. Something important enough to discuss, decide and track is important enough to warrant some acknowledgement when completed. A small “removing from the list” ceremony serves three purposes. It recognizes the accomplishment. It maintains focus on the entire list, especially items that have lingered too long, while it also helps identify routine tasks that are being “puffed up” into meeting goals. If one person is going from meeting to meeting with a pattern of goal/completion, goal/completion, goal/completion every time, they are just doing their normal job. (Example: My goal is to get the monthly newsletter out before next month’s meeting.”)
Next week: the last installment on post-meeting activities. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
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