Archive for July, 2008

Finish meetings faster by starting slower

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Seems paradoxical that using up time at the start of the meeting to go over items that aren’t agenda item #1 will give you a shorter meeting in the end.

One of the things we encounter when introducing people to Action Meetings is that they don’t understand why we take so much time at the start of each meeting - and why we repeat this same “time wasting” at each meeting. Surely you only need to do it once - and once we know the Ground Rules do we really have to read them out each time?

Imagine building a house. Why waste time on foundations? You can’t see them so why bother - just get stuck in to putting down a floor and walls and so on. Much faster, yes? No - because it will all start to wobble and break.

It’s just the same with meetings - except that often you can’t see it wobbling and breaking because it’s not a tangible thing. Intangible things, like meetings, need foundations too.

The five or ten minutes we take to get a meeting properly started always pays off in the end.

Rushing into the first agenda item may look like you’re all busy - but there’s a big difference between being busy and being productive.

Meetings not working? Try Meeting Maps.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Did you ever notice that some people say an awful lot in meetings and others say almost nothing? Or, that they flow off information seemed to come from one or two people towards everybody else?

Effective meetings tend to have much more even participation and contribution from all the participants (if your meetings have attendees rather than participants then that’s the start of the problem). Meetings are a tool most effectively used for gathering input from as many of the participants as possible.

So how do meetings typically go? One simple way of finding out is to map the next meeting that you participate in. Its very simple, you draw a map.

Meeting Map of Team Meeting

Team Meeting - Guess who’s the boss?

The most efficient way to do this is to;

  • Start with outlining the meeting table and the participants sitting around it, represented by a small circle around the meeting table with the name of each person written next to it.
  • Draw a circle in the middle of the meeting table which represents speech that has been put forward by one person directed to the rest of the group (and not just one person in particular).
  • For each 30 seconds that a person is speaking, draw a line connecting their circle to whoever they are directing their speech to.
    • For instance, if a person is addressing the group as a whole, then draw a line going from their circle to the circle that you have drawn in the middle of the table.
    • If instead they are only addressing one person in the group, then draw a line between their circle and the person’s circle that they are talking to. If they talk for longer than 30 seconds, then draw a second line between the circles and so on until they have finished talking.

At the end of the meeting you should have an easy to read map which will show you who has done the majority of the speaking and those who have refrained from talking.

Meeting Map - Project Meeting

Project Meeting - Mainly Project Manager getting individual updates.

If you would like to send me a copy of one of your maps that would be appreciated. I’ll email you back with  my analysis. We’ll look at what these maps tell us shortly.

Don’t help find Evan Trembley

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

There is a missing child chain letter doing the rounds at the moment.

Warning sign:

“Please pass this to everyone in your address book”

Whenever you see that phrase in an email, alarm bells should go off.

The annoying thing with these hoaxes is that they prey on people’s good nature - and, sadly, our gullibility (although you won’t believe that).

If you get an email that you think may be a hoax - go to Google and put in some key phrases like the name of the person or virus or whatever. Chances are that if it is a hoax that you’ll find out pretty soon. Email the person you got the hoax email from and ask them to let the people know not to pass it on so the chain gets broken.