We’ve all been in meetings where something has actually happened – we signed a contract, we set our budgets, we agreed the basis of collaboration – and in these meetings we get a real sense of achievement. We made progress and, importantly, we made progress together as a group.
Unfortunately, in most organisations, this is the exception rather than the rule: as you are probably painfully aware, change does not usually happen in meetings. I think the reason for this is that there is a default assumption that a meeting generates a list of things to be done (an ‘action list’ or ‘to do list’) and that the action occurs after the meeting.
But if we can get action to happen in the meeting then we can really speed up the process of making change happen. This is not always possible, but it’s always worth asking the question: ‘Instead of simply having actions from the meeting, can we take action in the meeting instead?’
Here are a few ideas for making change happen in a meeting:
- Don’t just decide, do: if the purpose of the meeting is ‘to take a decision whether to do X’, consider making the purpose of the meeting ‘to take a decision to do x, and if the answer is yes, to do it.’
- Get real customers in the room: For an annual planning meeting, it’s possible to create the plan in the room and, at the end of the meeting, to get some customers to arrive. Tell them what you plan to do. Get their response and incorporate it into the plan on day two. You’ve not only created a plan, but you’ve got some real world acceptance too.
- Get decision-makers in the room: If you are designing some changes to operational processes, get the people in charge of those processes to arrive at midday to approve the changes. In the afternoon, start work making the changes.
- Create the work product together in the room: Instead of simply discussing a service concept, create a marketing brochure or website for the service, using professional designers. These can be used to help communicate the results of the meeting, and form the basis of more polished products later.
None of these techniques is a formula for success. In my view the key is to think of meetings as part of the process of change. It’s an attitude of mind.
I’d love to hear about your experiences and ideas for making progress in meetings.