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All organisations, business or otherwise, suffer a degree of wasted human energy that detracts from efficiency and effectiveness. It may surface as misdirected effort, indecision, confusion, unresolved and recurring problems or boredom. In extreme forms it may manifest as mistrust, hostility, cynicism, low morale, factionalism, inertia, inflexibility and passive resistance.
Nowhere is this waste more easily demonstrated than in meetings. For many organisations they have become a particularly expensive way of conducting business.
Face-to-face meetings between executives are amongst the most expensive activities in the western world. [Most] are doomed to failure because their purpose has not been accurately identified, the participants aren't sure where they're heading, they are not conducted properly, and their results aren't measured. (Terry Robins-Jones, University of South Australia.)
Meetings are an important and often the principal way in which groups and teams proclaim themselves a community of interest, attempt to act collectively and behave in ways that help to define and manifest the culture. The activities and success of groups of all kinds rely heavily on their outcomes. For most workers they occupy a heavy percentage of the working week. Most managers spend between 35% and 70% of their time at meetings. Ninety percent of most executives' working days are occupied by meetings with at least one other person.
But for many organisations, meetings have become a particularly expensive way of conducting business because they are characterised by practices that actively inhibit useful outcomes.
During my 69 years in industry, I figure I have attended more than 40,000 meetings – an average of two or three per workday. About 30,000 of those meetings could have been shorter or not held at all. Half of our time is spent in meetings. If done better, you can get the time down by half.
Simon Ramo: "Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings."
Very many of these occasions are characterised by practices that actively discourage good outcomes. Individual participants may have a hazy desire of what they might characterise as "an effective meeting" but collectively hold no agreement on what constitutes one; no strategy or practical plans for guiding group functioning, development and success.
It is rare to find meetings in which the meeting's manager ("chair", leader or facilitator), treats participants as customers or clients of this function, even within otherwise "customer-focused" organisations. Their feedback and other involvement in monitoring, refining and evaluating the effectiveness of meetings is not sought and consequently the gap between what they need and what is actually delivered, grows continually wider.
A competently-facilitated meeting in which focus, energy, creative thinking and group achievements are high is much more than a tool for efficiency and effectiveness. It is also a great opportunity for high-yield collaboration and commitment, and a powerful strategy for enhancing people's development.
Our publications, 1:1 or group mentoring support, assessment processes and training can help you:
- Make better decisions about when and when not to conduct a meeting.
- Confidently assume the mantle of group facilitator (manager, chair, leader).
- Have fewer, shorter meetings
- Conduct meetings that are fit for purpose, focused, efficient, creative and enjoyable.
- Involve the wider group in ways that attend efficiently to the organisation's primary task, and increase people's capacity for it.
- Accept responsibility for managing both the content (the what - task, agenda, business of the meeting) and the process (the how - methods and procedures used to achieve the purpose, deal with the agenda and each other).
- Acquire the interpersonal effectiveness to act as guardian of these things on behalf of the full group.
- Encourage participants to share increasing responsibility for the effectiveness of meetings.
- Find and apply constructive decision-making models, problem clarification and problem-solving methods, conflict-resolution models, means of checking progress, and methods of evaluating the effectiveness of the meetings.
- Activate a plan for the continuous improvement of your meetings.
- Apply processes to large meetings (such as conferences) that maximise involvement and get the best from the participants.
Contact Tom Watkins to discuss your interest in this topic.
Click here to subscribe Tom's occasional blog, Thriving Matters.
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