Sunday, February 17, 2008

Meetings - A necessary evil !!

I have often realised that meetings are very potent tools to conclude something stupid, which individually no one participating in the meeting would have concluded.

I have never doubted the utility of meetings. It is an essential platform for all the depending parties to a particular conclusion to come together and take a responsible conclusion.

The question is if we need a means to make the process of a meeting fool-proof. Foolproof from the

  • herd mentality that at times creep into a meeting
  • strong personality swinging the meeting to his/her favour
  • super boss with a tendency to impose viewpoints
  • lack of interest that a few participating parties may have towards the point of discussion
  • and other such negative dynamics

From my experience, I think that we should take two meetings at least to arrive at a strategic decision.

Some might argue that there are always more than one meeting to arrive at a conclusion. They are right. However, I am not referring to meetings that conclude a process to execute a particular conclusion. I am referring to meetings that conclude a objective decision - Yes or No to a hypothesis. I am referring to meetings which give direction to a project, company or a brand. Usually such conclusions are taken in one meeting and the implementation of that conclusion takes many meetings.

My contention is that we should have at least two meetings to conclude on core strategic direction.

The first meeting should be

  • a discussion on the brief and problem at hand
  • followed by free brainstorming of ideas without any restriction
  • without any intention to conclude
  • moderated to avoid any imposing-one dimensional behaviour

The second meeting should

  • have presentations of viewpoints by each participating party in a structured manner
  • not permit any interuption during the presentations. Only questions for clarity by the audience should be allowed
  • have an incentive structured to acknowledge the best presentation arrived at through blind voting
  • Once all presentations are presented with, the meeting should analyse the pros/cons, scope and scale of the problem at hand and solutions suggested by each presentation.
  • Hence arriving at a conclusion with a much better grip on the problem at hand and repercussions of solutions suggested.

This kind of a process would prevent hasty decisions, emotional decisions, short-sighted decisions and give rise to pragmatic decisions with a good view of the future impact of the decisions.

Above all, this process should breed intellectual thinking in the organisation and improve confidence of the employees behind all major decisions.

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