• United States
Managing Editor, Network World Fusion

Managing better meetings

May 13, 20033 mins
Data Center

* How to ensure you leave your meeting with what you need

Come with me to a typical meeting. You get an agenda a few days beforehand. The agenda is promptly buried on your desk or in your e-mail inbox. A few days later, Outlook barks at you that the meeting is in 5 minutes. You hit “Dismiss” then try to find the agenda. You head down to the meeting, which is long and rambling. You leave the meeting, not sure of what you’re supposed to do or what was accomplished.

Fun, huh? Management and leadership expert Don Andersson says it doesn’t have to be that way. Last week, Andersson broke meetings down into three types: All Hear This; Show and Tell; and Make a Decision. Last time we examined the first two types: All Hear This meetings are for information sharing, and Show and Tell should really be avoided.

That leaves the self-explanatory – yet critical – Make a Decision meeting. First, Andersson says you need to clearly state the basis of the meeting, specifically, the question that needs an answer. Then everyone invited needs to invest time in some significant prework, “so they don’t just come in and shoot from the hip,” Andersson says. He advocates that everyone come to the meeting with at least two answers to the question at hand.

“Each person or subgroup should have at least two ways of solving the problem,” he says. “The reason they need two is that if I only have one, I’m going to defend it to the hilt. If I have at least two I know there are multiple ways of solving the problem. Each way will have advantages and disadvantages, but having multiple ideas will stave off territoriality and defensiveness.”

How simple – yet ingenious – is that? Imagine going to your next Make a Decision meeting and everyone arrives with ideas and suggestions, instead of elongating an already long meeting by thinking up – and shooting down – ideas on the fly. If attendees arrive with proposal, Andersson says they’re already predisposed to thinking creatively about this project or problem. By having a series of plans on the table, you’re free to spend the meeting time debating and finding the best solution.

Next time you’re face with a Make a Decision meeting, charge the attendees to arrive with at least two answers to the problem or issue at hand. See how much smoother the meeting runs and, more importantly, if you leave the meeting with what you need.