When you have been in a law firm and then an American insurance company you tend to develop a bit of an allergy to meetings, particularly long ones. You also tend to create meeting structures and agendas that are not conducive to particularly effective meetings – prescribed agendas, tight time frames, poor follow up and accountability – in fact replicating to a large extent the problems with the big corporate meetings that tended to suck the energy out of you.
Here at Proclaim one of our core values is to challenge the process. That means we are encouraging people to think about what we do and challenge those processes and systems and embedded practices that don’t make sense. So a few things happened recently that made us look long and hard at whether we were really furthering this value in the way we do our meetings in the business.
So what happened? First, in our employee survey some of our team challenged the notion that we were really challenging the process and encouraging all of our team to do it. In addition, our recently established ‘engine room’, a group of peers from the business who gather together to think about ways to improve our business, also expressed concern about the value of some of our meetings.
I am lucky enough to be in forum of CEO’s. We meet once a month and our meetings go for 4 hours. However I always get value from these meetings, and very often come back to the business energized and with some great new ideas. So this created some self analysis, and while the meeting structure for our forum is a little different to what we need in the business, it served as a reference point for rethinking our meetings – how we structure them, how often, how long and most importantly – what are we trying to achieve from them?
Patrick Lencioni’s book Death b y Meeting served as a useful reference point as we go about remodeling our management and team meetings. Patrick is a big fan of drama in meetings – produced by healthy and constructive conflict and debate on maters of importance to the business.
He is also a fan of setting the agenda based on people’s issues and priorities. So the agenda works around the current most pressing issues for team members engaged in the meeting. However he is also a great advocate for separate strategy, management and team meetings, and getting the overall structure of these meetings right is pivotal to succeeding in developing meetings that save rather than burn time. So can meetings be fun and rewarding? We are about to find out.