Seth Godin gets close to the truth about meetings

Seth Godin: entrepreneur, marketer, maverick, contrarian, author and all-round original thinker is not someone to challenge lightly - but the post on his blog “Three kinds of meetings” is really interesting for what it exposes on how we think about meetings.

Firstly, his splitting out meetings into three types is a great observation that not all meetings are the same - but the critical observation is that,

Confused meeting types are the number one source of meeting ennui.

Confusion between whether the item at hand is to gain common understanding or agreement not only leads to ennui but often fierce argument in which people are actually agreeing with each other.

Where we take issue with this is that in our observation, yes there are different types of meetings - but more critically in Action Meetings we distinguish between different types of “agenda item” or, in our methodology, “outcomes”.

Let’s take the case of a national organisation we’ve worked with that has a Board comprising members from all over the country who meet for a day every 3 months. There is no way that meeting could just be one of the types (information, discussion, permission) that Seth describes. That day-long meeting has all of those three kinds of activity going on - the key thing is that everyone knows what each outcome is directed at - common understanding, decisions, or assignment of task(s). As Seth rightly points out - making those differences explicit makes a huge difference to meeting focus and productivity.

Secondly, in our view, there is no “other side” (unless we’re discussing The X-Files) and meetings that are set up for consensus and team play are more productive than assuming an adversarial approach or power differential exists,

…the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.

Action Meetings is predicated on each meeting being a team activity and that each meeting goes through the team life cycle (as described by Bruce Tuckman) of forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning. Having everyone on the same side - as we would hope they would be within the same organisation - leads to more participation and transparent decision-making in our view.

How will we ever improve meetings without really noticing what is happening there? Thank you Seth.

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    [...] We liked Seth’s observations about “Three different kinds of meetings” but his post “Getting serious about your meeting problem” is a classic of what not to do - except he does throw in a disclaimer at the end, “This is all marketing. It’s a show, one that lets your team know you’re treating meetings differently now.” [...]

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