How many meetings leave you feeling as if nothing was achieved? The meeting did not achieve its purpose; the people who attended did not meet their goals. In essence, it was just a time-wasting conversation and you would have rather been at your desk, answering the pile-up of emails and tending to your work.
If you find yourself trapped in the hamster wheel of hapless meetings, you’ll empathize with Jason Fried’s TED talk, Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work. He discusses the time wasted at meetings that don’t move projects along and that serve only to prevent people from working.
Given that such meetings are the traditional course of business, how do you get out of the rut and find a more effective vehicle for communication and project development? Turn to Martin Murphy’s book No More Pointless Meetings.
Murphy proposes a technique called Workflow Management. First, managers assign a facilitator to run meetings. Facilitators choreograph workflow sessions to assure that the group is collaborative, productive and efficient. The impartial facilitators assume responsibility only for process – not the meeting’s content. They do not join in the discussion, instead, they use separate content (the focus and purpose of the meeting) from process (the logistics of the meeting: place, seating layout, tone, energy level, numbers and types of attendees). Surprisingly, Murphy suggests that meetings are more effective when a junior ranking member officiates.
He suggests four alternatives to the traditional meeting. These are:
Definition: Follow defined steps during the meeting to identify and prioritize the main issues that managers and employee teams need to tackle.
The results of this session form the starting point for subsequent meetings and results in gathering a list of the top 10 critical issues that need to be addressed, determining which can be settled immediately, and then constructing an action plan to solve these issues.
Definition: Brainstorms dozens of innovative ways to think about problems, solve new issues or generate ideas.
This is a gathering of the creative minds to “generate new solutions or products, update systems and processes, improve communication, originate strategy, or conceive promotion and marketing ideas.”
The workflow is: Ideation (generate ideas) → Building (pinpoint the methods for making the ideas function; expand on ideas to turn them into concepts) → Evaluation (assess which ideas have the most potential) → Action Plan (craft a strategy to move ahead.)
Definition: In this meeting, establish an environment that is conducive to finding specific solutions.
This kind of session has three components:
- Identify the problems and what is contributing to them.
- Discuss what kind of leverage to use to clarify the problem and find an access point to begin resolving it.
- Ask questions to seek a solution. Often times, simply repeating the question “what if” can help you pinpoint remedies.
Once you have decided upon the best course of action, prescribe an action plan.
4. Ongoing planning
Definition: This session results in an “action plan” that participants can enter in a “planning database” to enable continual strategizing based on current input and feedback.
The purpose of this meeting is to create a timely, ongoing and fluid planning process based on effective strategizing. For that to work, follow three practices:
- Innovative Collaboration Practices – Put the action plan in motion by assigning tasks using a team-wide database. Assign a planning coordinator.
- Robust Planning Database: – Create a comprehensive, continually updated planning database so you can evaluate productivity, assess companywide communication, analyze workflow proficiency, and identify challenges and opportunities.
- Personal Workflow Planners – Forget your to-do list and get with the program. Use a personal workflow calendars to know what’s going on at these days to track who is handling and prioritizing responsibilities.