Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Run "SMART", 'AGILE" & "ORGANIC" Meetings: Mind Shift & Tips

Improving meeting quality is not only a tactical issue but upon how to foster a culture that embraces openness and collaboration. 

The meeting is one of the important communication channels in modern businesses, though effective meetings are necessary, too many meetings or inefficient meetings will make people exhaustive or decrease productivity, further, meeting agendas & flavors may well reflect organizational culture habit. There are at least two types of meeting challenges: technical and adaptive. Technical challenges lend themselves to tips. Adaptive challenges require a change in mindset. So, is your meeting habit healthy? If not, what do you need, tips or mind shift?

1.   Meeting Goals, Framework & Analytics

(1)  Meetings should have a reason; every meeting needs to have a clear goal and effective agenda. Leaders & Managers may also continue to review upon reason and address it. The most important thing is for everyone to agree what the meeting is about, and what outputs/decisions need to be produced at the end. Really need to enforce time discipline into participants and develop the necessary culture of respect and time management.

(2) Meeting Facilitation session framework:
  • Planning: What is the purpose of the meeting, what is the deliverable and what is the success? Is it a strategic meeting or tactical meeting?
  • Risks: Are there any risks that need to be addressed in advance - knowing two individuals harshly disagree - meet with them individually, then with the group.
  • Hold the session: Identify the purpose and success, use the right techniques. 
  • Close the session: Actions with names and dates, then document and manage the actions  
(3) Analyze Overall Meeting Effectiveness:

  • How much percentage of time has been spent on the meeting, are they worth the time & energy?
  • Do they usually reach the expected goals? Do you always have the end in mind?
  • How to set the right priority to improve meeting productivity?
  • Do meetings actually improve morale, enforce communication, or get opposite side-effect such as productivity decrease?
  • Do you do enough "homework" before the meeting?
  • Who are the participants? Do they have the cogitative difference to express opinions? Will those opinions lead to more effective and objective decision making?
  • Do you get enough feedback? What has been said in the meeting, but what' not being said is perhaps more important, if the main purpose is about collecting feedback or diverse opinions and do you get what you need such as creative ideas or constructive criticism?
  • Is information distributed fresh, and informative? Does meeting create synergy and lead to action?
  • What are other alternative communication formats via taking advantage of the latest technology?

2. Follow ‘SMART’ & ‘Agile’ Principle to Run Meetings

Agenda, structure, and keeping to time limits etc are all important, and a strong facilitator is most critical. The facilitator needs to keep the meeting on the topic. Allow for some free discussion but if it seems to be taking too long give the necessary people an action to take the subject offline and if necessary report back as an agenda item at the next meeting. 
Running an effective meeting also take the management principles and best practices such as:

(1) Running 'SMART' Meeting
Using "SMART" Objective Model to run the meeting: 
  • Specific – Requires an agenda (and discipline) to stay on topic. Requires those deliverables being tasked (and delivered) at a meeting
  • Measurable – decisions are made, progress is reported, ROI comes from the efforts.
  • Attainable – The agenda is reasonable, you are not attempting to ‘boil the ocean’, and no discussion of it will be entertained.
  • Relevant – Keep focus, and make sure all attendees are relevant as well. Meetings should be attended by the only key cognizant parties (decision makers, project managers, etc). ‘Straphangers’ should be excused. SME’s and advisors should be invited only as needed.
  • Time-sensitive – Be disciplined in your time management. This includes the meeting lead. Designate an alternate facilitator for those emergencies.
  • Evaluate & Reevaluate – Are your measures appropriate? If you routinely go over then review the agenda or meeting frequency.
  • Satisfactory – Is the meeting required? Does it support organizational goals/vision and does it produce those measurable results?
(2) Running 'Agile' Meeting

Using Agile Philosophy in running meeting
  • Agile Meeting is not just about chatting but making decision 
  • Agile Meeting is to highlight which changes to focus on 
  • Agile Meeting is about setting the priorities 
  • Agile Meeting is to be open --encourage criticism
  • Agile Meeting Fits for Purpose and Mind the Gaps.
  • Agile Meeting is brief and efficient
  • Agile Meting is over; while action starts to be taken, there's clear assignment and alignment in execution. 

(3) Running “Organic” Meeting as a “living” things
  • Theme: The positive tone,  mind-mapping, and creative input
  • Color: Embrace openness, enjoy colorful point of view;
  • Surface: Clear agenda, informative presentation
  • Substance (core): Meeting Purpose/goal, Effectiveness
  • Style: Brief & Efficiency. Rolling agenda
  • Mechanism: Using tools to improve productivity
  • Metrics: Measure and align meeting agenda with action.

3. Tips on Running Effective Meetings

Before collecting tips or best practices for running effective and efficient meetings, understand what the causes to fail meetings such as.
- No standard agenda
- No standard meeting recap
- Meeting length varies
- All meetings do not have agenda
- All meetings do not provide meeting recaps
- If meeting agenda is used, agenda is not sent out in advance
- People arrive late
- Some time wasted at meetings talking nonmeeting related items
- Agenda is not always followed
- There's no process in place to ensure everyone has a voice
- Some people are invited that do not need to be there
- Key to do's are not documented and reviewed at next meeting
- If key participant is not available, meeting is held anyway
- No formal process for sending out agenda/meeting recap
- No standard location to store agenda/meeting recap

Tips to Run Efficient Meetings:
(1) Use whiteboards to stress the main topic or agenda, educate the informal leaders and above all - listen to feedback from colleagues; settled on three things that are needed if a meeting is going to be productive, each agenda item must have a sponsor or champion, who will guide the discussion on that point.
(2) Keeping the meeting logical is only practical and the team will understand, but keep it a little loose, reaps some unexpected benefits. Let opinions be free and objection constructive. Make timely arrival a desire. reward the first few arrive.
(3) Meetings should start with a review of open issues from the prior meeting so that issues don't get dropped/forgotten. Hold attendees accountable for bringing closure to their open issues
(4) Circulate the agenda early. This gives time for people to formulate and submit ideas. It is a little work up front, but will certainly keep it on track later. By all means, start the meetings on time, and follow the agenda. Someone must own the agenda and the meeting. 
(5) Keep it positive. Ensure the facilitator halts complaints about others and other groups. If there is a complaint or issue, require the person who brings the issue to state what they have done to help resolve the situation. 
(6). Avoid the Never Ending Story. If an issue, situation or another discussion has been held, don't allow it to come up again. Once a decision is made, require any further discussion to have new information as the price of entry. No new information--no new discussion.
(7) Actions get assigned to individuals, not groups. Status updates report activity, not excuses. If someone did not get things done and it is on their plate, simply note that, get a new date and move on, let the data speak for itself.
(8) Try to make meetings interesting. If a meeting is interesting, folks start to come on time and actually focus on the topics. Non-Conservative thinking is encouraged here. People want to attend by having elements of interesting mixed with some fun with granularity and clarity. 
(9) Quick stand-up meetings, make it slightly uncomfortable, such as no chairs or something similar. 
(10) Have a standard presentation for the meeting which indirectly dictates the agenda of the meeting. Identify a timekeeper and someone to take minutes so just before the end of the meeting, you can review the minutes and action plan and assigned responsibilities and everyone left the meeting knowing what is expected for the next meeting
(11) Having video recording on each meeting can solve most of the issues listed. People will be punctual, will prepare for the meeting and not talk nonrelated items. Anyone that did not join the meeting can view back the video recording. The best thing of having video recording is to avoid finger pointing. each person's tasks are recorded clearly. No blaming others for the bad situation.
(12) Anyone invited who cannot attend should be questioned as to why not - unless they give prior notice of non-availability. 
(13) Making sure that everyone has input also helps. Assign tasks from each meeting across the attendees so that everyone is accountable for reporting back on something next time. Publish the high-level discussion points (rotate that responsibility) 
(14) Make sure the minute taker summaries at the end of the meeting, highlighting actions/owners/do-by dates. Put a "summarized actions" item on the agenda at the end of the meeting. You get what you measure and document. Assuming you keep meeting minutes, include a table of who was invited, did they show up and did they show up on time. Usually, data speaks very loudly. The goal of these is to lower the emotional content thereby reducing the "noise" in the meeting. With discipline, these actions change the conversation and lead with a positive example.
(15) Thank everyone at the meeting for their presence/involvement/action ownership at the end of the meeting. 
Improving meeting quality is not only a tactical issue but upon how to foster a culture that embraces openness and collaboration. And, if look at the statistics on companies that do embrace this type of culture; they see a return on the top/bottom lines and morale.


Great blog!! This information seems very helpful and loved these meeting tips too. Have to arrange a business meeting at meeting space San Francisco for my office colleagues. Will take help from this information. Thank you for sharing.

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