Monday, November 9, 2015

Change Your Meetings and Change Your Life with Meeting Facilitation (aka Meeting Magic)

This article talks about tools to improve productivity every day at your job.  How do I know it works? I've seen change for the better in relationships and in the output of my teams and colleagues.

In 1994 I graduated with a computer science degree and started working at a large telecom company which specialized in wireless telephone networks. From day one I learned that knowledge is power and expressing your well-informed opinions loudly and with passion can move you up the power curve in an organization.

As I navigated my way from “Member of Scientific Staff” (that was my title, no kidding) to “Senior Member of Scientific Staff” then “Individual Contributor/Architecture” and finally to “Software Development Manager” I found that my voice was heard more often if I used it loudly and forcefully.  The downside of an outgoing and dominant personality is that you get your way often, but you don’t always get the best from other people and you create friction along the way.

In 2005 I took a role at another company as a “Team Lead/Scrum Master” and used the same skills that I’d learned in the first decade of my career.  I noticed that other individuals also used the be-loud-and-dominate technique.  Now, when there were two leaders saying different things in the organization, two parties would form and the differing opinions would create a small turf war.

In 2008, after participating for 14 years in the party system of technical decision making, I took the role of department manager and I WAS SCARED SPITLESS because I was taking over leadership of an organization where I had participated in a system that rewarded loud and overbearing people; some of which I had offended by using my techniques of domination instead of collaboration.


Faced with a department divided against itself, I realized I needed to drastically alter course.  So I studied hard to change my mindset and my behaviors. I read book after book and listened to people in the organization that showed management skills coincident with what I was learning in books.  

What I learned in these books and in my interactions with leaders in the organization is, I really need to behave with humility and try to draw out other people’s knowledge and skills.  And at the same time firmly demand discipline from myself and others to focus on solving problems and never drag the rhetoric of workplace or personal history into a arena where creativity and action are needed.

In 2011 I took a course called Agile Team Facilitation as part of my career development and also an Agile development initiative at my workplace. Read more about how a got involved in that course here. The material in the course not only reinforced all the learning in my post WAKE-UP CALL years, but also provided specific skills for applying collaboration and action into every interaction with teams of any size.  Instead of Facilitation, I call it Better Meeting Magic. Better Meeting Magic embodies the spirit of collaboration, inclusiveness and focus that can and will change the culture and productivity of a team, department, division or company. The results that I’ve seen in my current company reiterate the bold statement of change offered in this article.

Better Meeting Magic is pretty simple and includes the following meeting flow:

The description of the individual activities in Better Meeting Magic are as follows:

Know what you want out of a meeting before you go into a meeting
Introduce the overall meeting goals and agenda
Bias Check (optional)
Allow people to express themselves with specific activities to safely capture bias
Collaborate and generate ideas
Remove duplicate thoughts, reduced decision set to a manageable number
Decide what action(s) to take
Retrospective (optional)
Get feedback on how the meeting went or how comfortable people are with the outcome.
Summarize the meeting results and capture follow-up activities
Make sure minutes and actions captured during the meeting are addressed

You and your teams spend a lot of time in meetings. You need relief from unfocused discussion. You need a better way to increase output from your meetings by 2 to 4 times.  Better Meeting Magic can deliver all those things.

I will be posting a number of follow-ups to cover each specific activity.  Please stay tuned as I talk in depth about each component of Better Meeting Magic.

Please leave comments and tell me about the most frequently propagated meeting sin in your company.

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