I am now completing a small book on result-driven meetings. It builds on work my colleague, Robyn Faucy-Washington, and I are doing with Manatee County, Florida, and other clients on driving togetherness by targets rather than agendas.
As part of this work, I am looking at the books and articles, viewing the videos, and listening to the Podcasts reflecting the latest thinking on effective meetings. Here are four findings I find somewhat gloomy:
- The current advice on effective meetings sounds similar to that I have seen for many years. It starts with the focus on supportive group process. From one guide: “The work of meetings occurs through conversations and can be thought of as a series of conversations that create meaning and movement to action and results.” This certainly favors those who like to talk far more than those with an itch to act.
- The focus is on civility and consensus. Make sure everyone is in agreement, no matter how many sharp edges and divergent thoughts are sanded smooth. There is no support voiced for letting divergent thinkers try anything new—until everyone agrees on it.
- Most advice is about structure. I see templates and formats on annotated agendas, meeting roles, content summaries, and the like. The gist: complete these forms and you will have a great meeting. Among other shortcomings, this lawful approach rules out spontaneity and fireworks that are the heart of many collaborations.
- The point is to decide things, not act on them. The meeting is judged by what happens during it, not after it. Never mind if there is reduced energy as the meeting ends and no zestful individuals ready to be sparkplugs for implementation.
In Results1st we speak to setting targets and then designing activities to achieve them for all projects and all meetings. Contrast that with this advice I read: “Once you consider who’s in the room, it’s an opportunity to redesign or tweak the agenda.” In other words, start with the people present and then figure out what they can best do. Holding the process and the structure constant and letting the results vary is the opposite of. what I see high performing groups achieve–including in their meetings.