Magazine article New Zealand Management

New Technologies Same Old Meetings?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

New Technologies Same Old Meetings?

Article excerpt

It's no secret that the vast majority of managers' working time--some 75 percent--is spent in meetings. With customers. With suppliers. With bosses. With colleagues. With direct reports. As Synectics founder George Prince noted: "Life is a series of meetings. The challenge is to manage them effectively."

Back in 1993 a Synectics survey of 750 respondents from 150 medium to large organisations in the United States showed that only 52 percent of time spent in meetings was seen as productive. Similarly, a meeting quality survey of 38,000 respondents from 200 countries, conducted by Microsoft in 2005, found that 66 percent of time spent in meetings was deemed wasted time.

Most managers come to dread meetings and find them a terrible waste of time; time they feel they could have spent on other, more fruitful activities. Often they come out of meetings with a feeling that nothing significant has been achieved.

Experience in working creatively with managers in every kind of organisation has shown that there are techniques, many of them radical, of handling meetings better so that they regularly produce fresh, actionable ideas.

One of the main reasons why meetings aren't as successful as they should be is lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. Traditionally, meetings are conducted by a chairperson who plays a dual role, both managing the mechanics of the meeting (such as assigning "airtime" to different participants and keeping time) and controlling the content.

In a Synectics-style meeting, the chairperson's role is clearly split between the "problem-owner" who manages the content of the meeting--the issues and direction for decisions--and a facilitator, who manages the process. This allows the problem-owner to concentrate fully on directing the discussion, while the facilitator can extract maximum participation from all present without bias.

In both local and multinational companies key managers may be spread across different locations, even different parts of the globe. Bringing them together for important meetings is expensive and time-consuming. Technology has sought to keep pace, allowing meetings to be conducted through conference calls, video conferencing and computer networking. …

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