Treat meetings as an ongoing process, not isolated events

September 10, 2010 Max Isaac

by Max Isaac

Most organizations struggle far more with effectively executing strategy, than with creating a sound strategy. Many meetings, which form an integral part of executing strategies, are often treated as isolated events rather than as an ongoing process. By treating meetings as an ongoing process, your organization can become more effective in executing its strategy.

We recommend the following ideas to treat your meetings as an ongoing process:

  • Effective Follow-Up: Through the lens of Belbin Team Role Theory, it is likely that people who are strong in certain team roles (e.g. Implementer, Completer Finisher) may find it easier to follow-up on meeting ideas than individuals who are stronger in other team roles (e.g. Plant, Resource Investigator). Using Belbin Team Roles to identify people who are good at follow-up will produce better results.
  • Keep Processes Simple: Create usable processes to ensure follow-up. We’ve seen too many complicated processes and templates that take an inordinate amount of time to maintain. Find a process that works for your team so that you will use it. We like to keep an ongoing file of team meeting notes in one spreadsheet, with each meeting on a separate worksheet, so that all files are in one place and can be easily reviewed by all team members.
  • Carry Forward Ideas from Old Meeting Notes: This way you don’t have to start the meeting from scratch every time. Go back to the notes from the previous meeting(s) on the topic at hand and carry forward unfinished business from those meetings. This idea will help you to think of the process as a series of meetings, rather than a single meeting being an isolated event.
  • Assign Actions: Actions need to be assigned at the end of the meeting (which obviously cries out for follow-up in subsequent meetings). Assigning actions reinforces a goal orientation and accountability. A point to note in assigning action items is to be careful of requiring people to commit to the timing of completion of action items in the meeting itself. Sometimes a person who has been assigned an action item can quickly glance at their calendar and agree to a specific time. However, if one uses the assumption that meeting members plan their time properly, putting them “on the spot” in the meeting to commit to a completion date clearly violates the rules of sound planning. Individuals may feel pressured into providing “done by” date with which they are uncomfortable. So, using “To Be Determined” for the completion date is quite appropriate. The person may get back to one or more members of the meeting later, if that is necessary, with a time of completion. Handling timing in this way will allow those that wish to do so to revisit their existing commitments and alter their plans to now include the aforementioned action item.
  • Triage Ideas: Individuals who are talented in certain roles tend to be more divergent in their thinking (e.g. Plant, Resource Investigator), than those who are stronger in other roles. For example, someone who can easily play the Plant team role may come up with more ideas in one single meeting than an organization can implement in ten years. Effective leaders must use the team to triage ideas to identify the ideas that best support the strategy and be able to create a plan to implement them, while being able to capture other ideas for later use, perhaps in future meetings.
  • Use a “Parking Lot”: Create an ongoing list for each meeting where you can “park” any unrelated ideas that should be discussed later, outside of the meeting. Do not allow your Parking Lot to become a cemetery; this discipline is sorely missing in many meetings we have observed.

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