whiteboard meeting

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Ask meeting attendees ‘what items are we here to discuss?’. Write them down, preferably where everyone can see

The reason people don’t want productive meetings is because they’d have to do more work. They secretly like how it is.” My old boss gave this sage-like advice. Was he right? Probably. He usually was. The ‘but’ is that if we accept this as the norm, we are doomed forever. Having to accept that meeting, after meeting, after meeting, is the way it is. Are we doomed to live in this eternal nightmare?

We don’t have to be. Yes, you can read the meeting books. They normally contain advice like ‘have an objective’. A phrase ending in the word ‘Sherlock’ comes to mind.

There is another way – the change formula. This says that in order for you to make a change in behaviour, you need to be dissatisfied a lot – enough to want to overcome the resistance to change, which will be ‘no one else is changing, so why should I?’.

Use ACE:

A: Agenda. At the start of the meeting take the first five to seven minutes. Ask ‘what items are we here to discuss?’. Write them down. Preferably where everyone can see. Once you have them all, then group them into high, medium, and low while people watch, allowing them to shout, ‘We must do that today’. This whole process is quick and dependent upon you being strong enough not to allow discussion about the content of each point at this stage.

C: Capture. Ask someone to capture the actions. Typing them directly into an email in this format: ‘1. Bob, get the PowerPoint presentation updated.’ And as soon as the meeting ends, bang – send the email out. No tidying up the formatting. No re-checking. The subject heading is ‘Actions – DATE – Bob/Alice/Mike’. First agenda items next time? ‘Previous actions.’

E: Evaluate. At the end of the meeting spare 90 seconds. Ask this question: ‘What one thing can we do to improve this meeting?’. Three people – and only three – get up to 30 seconds to share.

Coming back to the change formula, the two other parts are first step and vision. Your first step is to do ACE at your next meeting. Get it wrong and do it better at the next one. As for vision, well, imagine if meetings actually added value, people did their actions, and the business moved forward because of them. We can hope…