Members of the House of Beautiful Business community shared ideas on how to improve meetings. Before you join your next meeting, have a read-through of what they came up with. See what the repetition is saying (or not saying).
Even better: before you schedule your next, ask yourself: does this really require a meeting?
Highlighting content from my September 2021 newsletter.
From the CIA’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual, here is an 8-point plan for disrupting meetings and conferences. You will probably recognize some of these from your own circumstances:
(1) Insist on doing everything through ‘channels’. Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(2) Make ‘speeches’. Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your ‘points’ by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for ‘further study and consideration’. Attempt to make committees as large as possible—never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate ‘caution’. Be ‘reasonable’ and urge your fellow-conferees to be ‘reasonable’ and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
“(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision. . . . It might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.”
Highlighting content from my September 2021 newsletter
Perhaps you do this already with your team: you take the first few minutes of a meeting to check in, sometimes as a group and sometimes in random pairs or trios in breakout rooms. Just a few minutes to chitchat – about anything but work, like what would happen randomly at the office.
Well, Zapier, a company that helps its clients create automation workflows, is doing something similar but company-wide. They
try to make serendipitous, face-to-face interaction happen on a routine basis. We use a Slack app called Donut, which pairs everyone who signs up with a random coworker and helps schedule a video call. There are no rules to these conversations—people talk about where they live, their hobbies, or (if they want) work. These interactions don’t replace the serendipity of an office, but they can go a long way.
The topic of work is going to come up when you’re talking with random coworkers, because it’s the one thing you for sure have in common.
And there are benefits: these random conversations can lead to solutions, they connect people who might otherwise never talk, and it allows for what Mark Granovetter calls “the strength of weak ties”.
The content of this post was originally posted in the September 2020 issue of my newsletter. “On management and strategy” is a free, monthly newsletter in which I share my own writing as well as links to articles and research on management, leadership, and strategy. It’s easy to subscribe… and unsubscribe.
James Shelley on his blog:
Put a group of people in a room. Give them a whiteboard, pens, and markers. Ask them to develop an idea.
Put the same group of people in another room. Give them pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, a stage, a guitar, and LEGO. Ask them to develop an idea.
How different will the ideas be that emerge from the two different rooms?
In other words: How do the tools we use determine what we come up with?… or whether we engage at all.
It’s a question worth asking – in addition to location, time and venue.
Perhaps our people fail to come up with new solutions or ideas because we always ask them for those novel ideas in the same meeting, in the same place, in the same manner, and using the same tools.
p.s. The tile of the post is not a typo 🙂
In one of the People and Business Management workshops that I facilitate we ask participants to outline how they would approach their first meeting as the manager of a multicultural team. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the imagination and inclusiveness of the responses.
This article in the Harvard Business Review provides useful guidance. Here’s an excerpt:
- Study up on the variations that exist among cultures and how those differences play out in the workplace
- Create protocols and establish norms so that your colleagues understand how meetings will run
- Incentivize colleagues to step outside their cultural comfort zones by institutionalizing rewards around what you’re trying to motivate people to do
- Be hung up on how people from certain cultures are supposed to act—remember, people are capable of adapting and adjusting their cultural default
- Force a perfect dynamic in meetings—solicit colleagues’ opinions in other venues and encourage people to provide feedback in different ways
- Overlook the importance of team bonding—encourage colleagues to get to know each other outside of meetings so that cultural differences won’t seem as glaring
Here’s [sic] a few reasons why:
- They break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow
- They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design)
- They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute
- They often contain at least one moron that inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense
- They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow
- They frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about
- They require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway – via Getting Real.
If you absolutely MUST have a meeting, follow these rules.
At the workplace, at home, at school,
the only stupid question is the question that is not asked,
the only stupid comment is the comment that is not made, and
the only stupid idea or suggestion is the one that is not shared.
So, go ahead, by all means… be stupid!
during which participants will likely be multitasking on their blackberries and iphones… NYTimes.com.