Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Art of the Meeting

In any business there are a number of soft skills that are incredibly useful; a lot of people have talked about communication and technical writing, but I wanted to talk for a few minutes about another area that is often overlooked: Meetings.

A long time ago (when I was at Lockheed) everyone in our group was required to participate in Facilitator training (not just those running meetings), they believed that if everyone facilitates meetings they will run smoother.  My experience was very positive with meetings when everyone had the training.

The idea was that the facilitator should do everything they could to prepare the meeting to run smoothly:
- scrub the list of required vs. optional attendees. (don't waste peoples time)
- ensure all required attendees are available for the meeting. (avoid rescheduling)
- send out meeting notices well in advance (1 week+).
- include the agenda for the meeting prior to the meeting (eg. with the meeting notice). (keep the meeting focused and on-track)

Everyone in the meeting was expected to work on keeping the meeting on-track:
- fill-in for any role as needed (eg. Note taker, facilitator if you have the expertise and the facilitator isn't available at the start of the meeting)
- keep good thorough notes for the meeting, the note taker should share the minutes to all attendees after the meeting (by the next business day).
- during the meeting keep the topic on the agenda items, other issues should immediately be relegated to off-line discussion.
- once an item has been decided by group consensus be prepared to move on.

- Be on time for the meeting.
- Action Items should be re-capped at the end of the meeting to ensure they are accurate.
- Action Items should be descriptive enough such that someone not at the meeting will immediately understand what needs to be done.
- Minutes should be descriptive enough such that someone not at the meeting will understand what was discussed.
- Keep the meeting on-track, distractions such as side-bars or phone calls should not take place (or at the very least be moved outside of the room).

- ensure all resources are available and you know how to use them prior to the meeting (projectors, podium, etc...)
- don't schedule meetings if an alternative is available and appropriate. (don't waste peoples time)
   Phone Call (no documentation quick)
   In-Person Talk (no documentation, quick)
   Email Chain (provides documentation)
   Scheduled Meeting (slowest option, meeting invite and distributed minutes/action items provide documentation)

I don't mean to champion etiquette, but I've been at companies where some of these items weren't followed and it makes it very difficult to be productive.  Imagine discussing an Action Item from a month ago that says "Have Jake talk to the EP Group." or having a meeting scheduled and everyone preparing for it and then in the first five minutes of the meeting being told "we aren't going to be discussing that".

I've had it both ways; Facilitator training gets my vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment