Is improving your meetings a good idea?
Most meetings are an energy drain. Everyone working for or with a big organisation knows that. So I often get clients that would like to start improving meetings, especially their meetings.
– Why do you want to improve your meetings?
– Well, says the client, I’d love to see people engaging in the topic instead of phasing out. Also the decisions and action lists should really be a list we act upon instead of postponing it for endless reviews in the next meetings.
– So what improvements are you thinking of right now?
– The whole meeting should be much more structured.
And by structuring they usually mean things like: the agenda should be prepared well in advance, including all attachments, and participants should read them before the start, then the meeting should stick to the time allotted for each point and the decisions and actions should be SMART.
A crystal clear process as guarantee for great decisions!
A deceivingly simple question
For me it seems quite simple, because all I’m being asked by the client is to improve the current meeting by helping clarifying what is going to be discussed, when and where that’s going to be done and who will be involved. The how remains simple as the agenda should be followed from top to bottom in plenary, sitting around a table.
But that’s putting the cart before the horse.
Participants don’t come to a meeting because of a crystal clear process, participants come to a meeting because they hope or fear the upcoming decisions will affect their daily business. They come to influence those decisions. Keeping the meeting on track is the last of their concerns.
Improving meetings is a waste of time!
You will face the same problems with a crystal clear process for your meeting than without. The problem is usually not about poor meeting performance, that’s just a symptom. The problem is that the ‘why’ of the meeting remains unquestioned.
Asking the ‘why’ of your meetings gets you to the core of your team and your organisation. You start realising your meetings are related to the goals and the values of your organisation. You meet because you and your team want to reach the organisational goals and you want to do it in a way that reflects the values your team and your organisation hold dear.
Start with the why
And once you’re tackling the ‘why’, you’re not improving meetings, you’re redesigning the whole meeting culture and structure you currently have. And then you start filling the other blanks: when, who, where, what and last but not least how to hold your meeting!
Moreover just redesigning your meetings is way easier than improving the status quo. You give a clear signal to the participants: ‘something is going to change and to be different here’. Participants will be forced out of their meeting routine, meaning that old patterns will change more easily. And the best way to do that is to ask them to help you solve the challenge meetings often pose. Because that concerns everyone!
Doing so requires a bit of courage, time and thinking, preferably in co-creation with your team. But it will bring you way better meetings than you had before.