Magazine article Industrial Management

Focusing on Real Issues: Revamping Ho-Hum Meetings

Magazine article Industrial Management

Focusing on Real Issues: Revamping Ho-Hum Meetings

Article excerpt

Getting teams of people focused, aligned, and committed to specific action on crucial issues is the essence of today's management style. Yet, all too often, the planning process is allowed to go on forever. Plans never jell, the team loses interest, and opportunity is lost. In a competitive, fast-moving environment, that can be disastrous.

On the positive side, a growing number of managers are looking for ways to speed up--and increase the effectiveness of--their meeting processes. Those who have made strides in this area have found that there is a process that enables their teams to achieve better, more creative solutions faster.

The basic requirements for a successful group session include:

* A manager/leader and a team committed to resolving the issue not just talking about it;

* A meeting design that focuses on the real issue and guides the team in its resolution;

* A neutral process facilitator who has been trained in the skills it takes to lead a group and is not emotionally buried in the content;

* A means for recording ideas and keeping track of what goes on. "Storyboarding" is an ideal medium, because of its inherent flexibility and speed; and

* A planning location where other activities are not allowed to intrude on the session.

The most important element in the process is design-thinking through the session before the group convenes. Design involves seven steps that are taken in order and reworked until the whole design feels right. The design is then displayed on a storyboard that guides the session and acts as a reference point throughout. Below are the design steps:

1. Clearly state the topic. This can be the most difficult step, but it is critical to success. That is clear to anyone who has ever sat in a long, rambling meeting where nobody, not even the leader, seemed to have a clear idea what people were there to discuss. State the topic as the question you need to answer. Or begin with specifics such as "how to..." or "ways to..."

2. Give team members complete background on the project at hand, but do not bury them in useless facts. Do not send out masses of "homework" that busy people do not have time to read. Thinking through what people need to know about the topic will keep the background portion of the meeting brief and to-the point; good backgrounding helps define the real issue and focuses the group.

3 . Clearly state the purpose of the project. Answer the question: "What do we want to have in hand when the whole project is done?" Insist on measurable and verifiable purposes. …

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