How to design a meeting

Daniel W. Rasmus has started an interesting series of blog posts on the design of meetings, or more specifically, the design of meetings that use collaborative software. He introduces his first post in a series with these words:

Welsh WatersHow to Design a Meeting: Lesson 1

We all run meetings like we know what we’re doing. We have been to so many meetings we just know how to run them. What we really know is how to model and perpetuate the poor habits and practices of our mentors and coaches, managers and colleagues.  In the era of collaboration software our meetings need to be redesigned so they are driven through the collaboration environment in real-time, as the meeting takes place. Stop all the e-mails and document duplications, or even worse, handouts and get people to engage in a collaborative way through a meeting environment that captures all of the content, the tasks and the decisions in one view (not necessarily, as you will read, in one place).

The other day I finished work exhausted. As I sat and considered what I had achieved that day I realised that I had spent most of it in meetings, but what had I achieved? Honestly, precious little. Why was that? Well, and this is where I might be getting a bit too personal for some, boredom tires me out, and I’d spent much of the day bored.

I’m not saying that meetings are boring, but I am suggesting that many of the meetings that I attend are boring. Sometimes meetings need to happen that are in their very make-up dull, the context and the subject makes it difficult to make them interesting. These are the minority of meetings though, many meetings with interesting content are made colourless by the way that we run them. We spend so much of our time in meetings we should care that they are effective. If a meeting is effective it, at least, has a chance of not being boring.

I need to hold my hands up here and apologise for the drab meetings that I’ve run too, there’s a lot I need to learn, relearn and unlearn. Daniel has provided an infographic of where he is going with the series, I’ll read with interest:

Things Don't Get Done in Meetings

I’ve been an observer of meetings for some time. It’s something that we do in business but I’m sure most people have no idea why.

This morning I’m struck by two thoughts.

The first comes from listening to a Daniel Pink podcast talking about “autonomy”.from his recent book – Drive.

The other comes from Leadership Freak and states wonderfully a set of 4 ways that Managers roadblock productivity one of which states:

Meetings – Too many meetings that include too many people that share too much detail. Here’s some motivation to abbreviate or cancel meetings. They are expensive. A one hour meeting with 8 people in attendance costs their combined salaries plus lost productivity. Remember, you don’t get anything done in a meeting. Things get done after meetings.

(Highlights mine)

Meetings are nearly always the opposite of autonomy.

They are there to serve the purposes of the person who organised the meeting, and no-one else.

Mutually beneficial meetings are the rarest of all things.

Meetings rarely produce any meaningful outcomes and all too often come to the wrong conclusion that is changed at a later date.

I could go on, but I’m determined to write shorter blog posts in 2011 – and I’ve got a meeting to go to.