Meetings are held every day within organizations. Understanding why we have meetings is as important to their success as is the outcome of the meeting. Do your company meetings have a purpose? If you think that they do, please read on. You may learn differently?
Understanding why we have meetings as well as what the outcome should be is important. A meeting may be necessary when:
- complex information needs to be shared,
- the expertise of several people is needed to develop the best ideas,
- the subject matter affects everyone in your group, and/or
- a group’s commitment is desired in order to reach an outcome.
Do the meetings in your organization meet these criteria?
Meetings are a way to:
- exchange information,
- generate ideas, and
- to check for understanding of an issue or situation.
Do the meetings in your organization accomplish these goals?
Meetings should also lead to positive outcomes that include:
- effective strategies for taking action,
- agreement on responsibilities and assignments,
- development of new ideas,
- better understandings of policies, procedures or changes, and
- better working relationships.
Do the meetings in your organization lead to positive outcomes?
There are times when a meeting is not necessary. A meeting may not be necessary when:
- the subject matter does not involve everyone in a group,
- someone, either alone or with another person, has to make a routine or quick decision,
- or the subject matter is simple, short, is not controversial and can be handled by another means, such as memos, or one-to-one conversations.
How many situations in your organization are handled via a meeting when one really wasn’t necessary?
Knowing the type of meeting desired helps you to clearly identify your meeting objectives. There are five different types of meetings that lead to productive and/or positive results:
- Problem solving – This is when participants identify causes, agree on solutions, and decide what actions to take to solve a problem. Examples of teams that may use this type of meeting include: quality improvement teams or corrective action teams.
- Clarifying or Informing – This is when participants need to communicate information about changes or developments that affect a work group. Information may be provided by the leader or obtained from group members. Examples may include team or staff meetings.
- Brainstorming – This is when participants need to generate as many ideas or solutions as possible in a set period of time. No specific actions or decisions are generally required. Participants or others may use the ideas at a later time to reach a decision. Brainstorming sessions may be used by quality or meetings that wish to improve productivity.
- Progress Report – This is when one or more participants provide a status report. It is intended to give information and not meant to be a forum. Groups that work interdependently may use a progress report meeting to keep each other posted.
- Planning – This is used when participants need to agree on a process for achieving objectives. Participants are held to identify priorities, steps, and resources needed to complete a task. Group members discuss who will do what by when. Project teams and task forces hold this type of meeting periodically during a project.
The different types of meetings may overlap. A brainstorming session might be held before a problem solving discussion and an information meeting might be combined with a progress report. Whatever the type and overlap, it is important to understand what needs to be accomplished before scheduling the meeting.
Deciding upon who should participate in the meeting is critical to its success as well. Participants should include:
- expert(s) on the subject,
- someone who has information on the meeting topic,
- or whose areas or tasks are affected by the meeting topic.
Are you inviting the “right” participants to each meeting in your organization?
Each person attending the meeting must also be able to:
- be prepared,
- focus on the meeting objectives,
- contribute ideas,
- encourage others to contribute,
- build upon others’ ideas, and
- treat others with respect.
Employees who have these characteristics should be able to participate in a meeting’s success. Does your organization have employees who exhibit these characteristics during meetings?
Participants need to have both their practical and personal needs met during a meeting. Practical needs include accomplishing the meeting’s purpose as efficiently and effectively as possible. Personal needs are that the participants feel valued, listened to and included in the meeting. Are meeting participants having both their practical and personal needs met in meetings within your organization? Remember that when people feel that their contributions are valued and that they are respected, they will work harder to participate and make things happen.
So, do your organizations meetings have a purpose? Are you inviting the “right” participants? Understanding the different types of meetings and requirements of participants should help to make sure that the purpose is achieved, participants understand and contribute and outcomes are positive.
For additional information on training employees on how to participate in and lead meetings, please contact New Focus HR.
Written By: Kristen Shingleton, M.B.A., CCP
President, New Focus HR LLC