Meetings: Sneaker Time?

Listen to this postMost of us have been in a meeting which ended without solving the discussed issues. The meeting participants leave the meeting to meet again in the nearby walkway to discuss the unfinished subject from the meeting. Sometimes they continue the discussion over the phone to complain how unproductive the meeting was. They use the phone to conclude some of the issues discussed in the meeting.
Sneaker time is the time spent by the meeting participants after the meeting discussing the open issues. Sneaker time discussion takes more time and waste many resources. The discussion after the meeting is usually between 2-3 meeting participants, the rest of the participants are not aware of the followup discussion and there is a good chance that they will not even know the outcome of the follow-up discussion.
Meeting discussion is usually documented and circulated for information and action. Sneaker time discussion is rarely documented and almost never circulated. The actions items from the sneaker time discussion can be dangerous because only few people know about them and approve them. These action may contradict with other action items generated by another group in side discussions similar to the sneaker time.
Well managed meetings should discuss and analyze the meeting agenda’s times to reach solutions and action plan that prevent the need for further discussion. The meeting chairperson should manage the meeting while thinking of the possibility of sneaker time after the meeting. The target should be to reduce the sneaker time to meeting time ratio. The meeting participants should leave the meeting without the need for further discussion on the meeting action items.

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Meetings: Why Do We Need An Agenda?

You may ask “why do we need an agenda? We all know what we are going to discuss.” Preparing the agenda takes time and in some meetings people do not even look at it. The agenda is a contract between the meeting participants during the meeting. They are committed to the time allocated for each discussion item and they agree on what to (or not to) discuss. Some people are professional in hijacking the meeting. They will steer the discussion to a subject not in the agenda and consume the meeting time to discuss their personal agenda. Most of the time they will start with a shocking or outrages comment that grab everybody’s attention then direct a question to one of the participants (or the meeting chairperson) to answer. When they finish the discussion on that subject the will say “A similar situation or maybe worse is about ….” and the discussion will continue to serve their personal agenda. They would consume most of the meeting’s time before anybody could notice it. The best solution for such people is to say “I am sure this is an important subject that you are bringing to the meeting, but it is not listed in the agenda. We will schedule it at the end of the meeting or you may ask for a separate meeting to give it the time it deserves.”

One of the first signs of a good meeting is a well written agenda. The agenda should have the title of the meeting (the subject) and the start and end time. The exact location for the meeting should be clearly stated. You will need a map with clear directions (like Google maps) if some of the meeting participants are new to the meeting location. The agenda should have a list of the discussion items written in simple and clear language. Please avoid the trade lingo, slang, abbreviations or general statements like “Discuss the situation in XYZ” you may know what is the situation and what is XYZ but other participants may not know or could misunderstood both of them. Estimate how long each item in the list will take and record it next to it. The participants will know how much time is available for that item and be ready to finish their discussion within the available time. They can call and ask for extra time before the affirming the agenda or at least before the meeting could start. Always add 5-10 minutes at the end of the agenda for new items but please do not allow for more than that. If the new item needs more time then schedule a new meeting for that new item.

The meeting participants can read the agenda and prepare themselves for the discussion by researching the subject and preparing important documents (tables, drawings or maps) to support their argument. without the agenda some participants would answer “I did not know that you are going to discus XYZ subject, I am to ready to discuss it, I will come back tot you on …”

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Meetings: What Is Really Going On?

Listen to this postWe spend few hours everyday in meetings. Some meetings are short and simple, like a one-on-one meeting to discuss specific issues and take decisions. Other meetings are usually last between half to full hour with attendance between 3 to 7 participants half of them do not know why they are sent to the meeting. Some meetings are large, noisy, crowded and long. They are more like a workshop than a meeting but they exist in the business world and many of us had survived few of them. These large meetings are the least productive meetings because they are difficult to control. It would be almost impossible In such meetings to listen to every participants’ input and give them enough time to discuss their thoughts.
Mismanaged meeting consume the management time and effort and hold the participants in a place were they are only listening instead of working on important issues outside the meeting. You will know that you are in a mismanaged meeting when the participates have side talks and others are frequently checking their iPhones and Blackberries instead of participating in the meeting. You will know that you have been in a good meeting when everybody leave the room knowing enough about the subject to describe it to anybody who ask them about it later. The participants in a good meeting will leave the meeting with a set of actions to take with a specific outcome on a target date. They know whom they should contact for clarifications and to whom they should report their progress. This post is an introduction to a series of posts on the same subject I will be updating in the coming days.

Take A Note

Listen to this postWe have many wonderful ideas that cross our minds but we forget them after a while. Som experts estimated that every person would have thought of four new ideas that can make him or her a millionaire every year. But we do not record the ideas or elaborate on them. One simple tool can help work on these ides. The tool is a simple a notebook and a pen or pencil. You can use your phone or PDA as a notebook if you are a tech savvy. Record the idea in the note taking device and let it there for some time. Check you notebook from time to time and think about what you have written it, and start wondering “is this is a good idea?” should I develop it any further? Do not delete the note if you do not think it has any value now. Just keep it there in the notebook it guarantee that it will not harm you. You brain will be working on the idea subconsciously without you knowing about it. After some time the idea will be more detailed and organized to form a concept that fits in a useful context. So, keep a noting device near you always and write your thought whenever possible, who knows you might be a millionaire very soon!

Your Discussion

Listen to this postWe have discussed many issues, challenges and opportunities with different people but we rarely notice how we discuss or negotiate. We start the discussion with a strong believe that we are right and are able to convince the other side to agree with us. We should open the door for the other side to express and discuss their points also. Their ideas might be better than ours but we will find difficulty in accepting their points. The best way to go about such conflict of interest is to share our views and be ready to integrate or mix both ideas and come up with a solution that please both sides. Lions mark their territories with their urine, and I do not suggest that you do the same for your ideas during the discussion, but give the others a chance to change, ultra, expand or add part of their thoughts into the final solution and they will definitely agree with you. Sometimes, when you offer a complete solution to a different department or organization you notice that somebody for that department will disagree and become a roadblock. All you need to do is to give them a chance to review your offer and suggest how you can customize it to their needs. If the changes they suggested are not fundamental then incorporate their input into the offer and announce that they have helped you to reach the final solution. You will see them championing your work and help you in many ways.

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