Collaboration, Communication, Meetings, Time Management

Making Meetings Meaningful – Part 2

In Part 1 of this two part series on meaningful meetings I covered the importance of:

  • structuring different types of meetings around each meeting’s core purpose;
  • the need to surface and explore respectfully inherent tensions and conflict; and
  • summarizing key decisions made and reaching agreement on what should remain confidential and what should be communicated to stakeholders.

Now in Part 2 I will introduce the concept of developing a creative scoreboard to help meetings stay focused on their most important 1-2 goals. (Numbering system continues from Part 1.)

4)    Develop a Creative Scoreboard

Playing tennis has always been my favourite sport, until some health and age realities caught up with me along with the loving persuasion of my wife, after an injury on court. Now it’s just watching! But I noticed a difference between just having a hit and playing a game. Scoring entices a stronger commitment level making the game somehow more exciting and engaging. People play the game differently when someone is keeping score.

The same applies in the workplace. Having a scoreboard lets your team know whether they are winning or not. Are they on track to achieve the desired result? As Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling point out in their book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, “The scoreboard is for the whole team. To drive execution you need a players’ scoreboard that has a few simple graphs on it indicating: Here’s where we need to be and here’s where we are right now. In five seconds or less, anyone can determine whether we are winning or losing.” Remember this scoreboard is for the team members, not just the team leader – its primary purpose is to serve (pardon the tennis pun) as an external motivator for the team to succeed.

To achieve this McChesney, Covey and Huling state the scoreboard should:

  • Be highly visual, visible and creative. That means it should be designed by the team itself and not just the leader.
  • Include a brief statement of the goal the team is working on expressed in specific terms and including a ‘by when’ date.
  • Feature specific ‘lead measures’ – lead measures are those 1-2 key actions that are highly predictive of successfully achieving the goal plus ones which the team has influence over. Examples for a manufacturing team might be preventative maintenance scheduling of critical equipment and a clear, timely process for upskilling new operatives.
  • And also specific ‘lag measures’ – lag measures are those metrics that track progress on achieving the goal. Staying with the same examples as dot point 3, lag measures might be the number of widgets produced per week and the weekly degree of compliance with budget parameters. Lag measures tell your team how it’s progressing vis a vis the goal, and when it gets there.

Having a creative scoreboard is particularly helpful for the weekly tactical and the monthly strategic meetings, but different scoreboards will be needed for each. The examples in the above paragraph are appropriate for the weekly tactical. However, because the monthly strategic meeting is issue-specific, the scoreboard needs to reflect those 1-2 issues the meeting will be addressing. When those issues are known in advance (which is usually the case), a scoreboard needs to be prepared beforehand for each one, identifying the specific issue, relevant metrics and related goal(s). The work of the meeting then in analysing the issue(s) will include the identification and analysis of both lead and lag measures and making appropriate decisions.

In addition to the specific 1-2 issues the monthly strategic meeting needs to consider, the scoreboard should also include an update on lag measures for standard operational objectives such as staff turnover, financial status, sales and any other on-going key metric relevant to the particular organization and its sector/industry. Similarly, a report on the latest metrics for the same operational objectives would be helpful to have available for the Quarterly Off-Site Review.

In most organizations managers and executives spend more time in meetings than in any other single business activity (perhaps apart from emails!). Hence making meetings meaningful and productive is essential for businesses to be successful. If you want to explore this topic further I strongly recommend Death by Meeting. You are also welcome to contact me for further support. I’m certainly experienced in having my share of a few boring and less than meaningful meetings in my time. In fact in my past I’m sure I’ve been responsible for causing a few myself!

Graham Beattie

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