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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Important meetings: Ensuring that agenda and main meeting points are circulated and clear before the meeting - Part 2

The previous post of this series (Ensuring that agenda and main meetings are circulated and clear - Part 1), talked about a meeting where we had a number of people, was an important meeting with a number of items to be discussed, and the meeting was a disaster. Items were discussed, but the meeting did not run on expected lines, most of the items were not discussed, and it turned out to be chaotic to some degree. Since the meeting did not accomplish what we had wanted to get done, and we had got some feedback about the meeting (not positive, certainly not), we set out to see what all we had been doing wrong and wanted to improve things to a great degree.
So, here are some of the things we did to improve the way we ran our meetings:
- We did a listing of the items we had where we needed information (or needed to have a discussion) with the required attendees of the meeting. This included a prioritization of these items; it was something as simple as figuring out the items that we could drop from the discussion list of we were pressed for time.
- Out of the items that we had for discussion, we tried to get a listing of such items that needed information from only one person (rather than a discussion with multiple people) and tried to get that information before the meeting. This ensured that the meeting did not waste time of most of the people who were there for the meeting.
- With the items that we had, we did a round of internal discussion related to the assumptions and the variables involved with each item, and where necessary, we consolidated the information including preparing diagrams and workflows that would help show the current situation, and show the areas where we needed the information. This would help focus the discussion and reach conclusions faster (and also remove the tendency for somebody to start tracing a situation from the beginning).
- For each item, we would have a specific person from our side who was the expert (this ensured that we did not have several people from our side trying to speak on the same issue), and this person was supposed to ensure that they set the pace of the discussion and stopped where it got out of context (see the next point)
- Sometimes conversations would tend to get out of context, and this would waste a lot of time. If you would have seen discussions of meeting, you would have seen somebody come up with the following line: "Folks, if we could get back to the subject on hand". We ensured that for every point, there would be somebody from our side who would do this, evaluating when a subject had been discussed enough or was getting out of context.
- Similar to the above point, we had set aside time for each subject, and had a buffer of 15% extra time. When we reached to around 90% of allocated time for a subject, we would try to consolidate and do a summary of the discussion, and then ensure that we were finishing the subject within the allocated time.
- We sent out an agenda with the current status and the query on which we were hoping for a conclusion, and ensured that everybody had read the agenda before the meeting. We did a call to all the attendees, so that they had read the agenda and also confirmed their attendance to the meeting.
- We sent out clear directions to the location of the meeting, including sending out conference details if the meeting was remote for certain attendees, and also details of any online white board for discussions.
With all these, the next meeting was a fairly decent success; we did not get everything discussed, but a number of items that we had for discussion came up and we got resolution to a number of items, It also ensured that a follow up meeting inspired more confidence among the attendees.

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