In my previous post, I outlined the ways you can improve your meetings by creating a structure that differentiates meetings based on their purpose. I recommend that you build a meeting structure with weekly operations meetings; monthly business builder meetings; and quarterly strategic directions meetings. I’m going to devote one post to each meeting format to help you optimize your meeting time.
Weekly Operational Meetings
Leadership teams (where the members are themselves team leaders) have a significant amount of information to process to keep the group running smoothly. Examples include the launch of a new product or service, an emerging issue in service delivery, trade-offs in priorities or resources, etc.. These topics are usually time sensitive and require an efficient forum where they can be raised, discussed, and resolved. That’s what the weekly operational meeting is all about; working in the business
The objectives of your weekly operational meetings should be:
- ensure team members have up-to-date information to run their own departments effectively;
- identify, and gain diverse perspectives on, emerging cross-departmental issues;
- align around action plans; and
- create clear accountability for action.
Introduction (10 minutes)
The meeting should start with an introduction from the team leader that provides context for the team’s discussions. Ideally, this context includes information from the team above (e.g., the team lead by the team leader’s boss). It should also include other relevant organizational goings on. The team leader should close by reinforcing the most important priorities for the week or month ahead.
Roundtable (30 minutes)
For a while, roundtable discussions (where each team member provides a quick update) lost favor and were deleted from regular agenda. Recently, many teams have been asking to bring them back; having decided that nothing substitutes for the chance to hear your teammates talk about their issues and priorities. But remember that they were banned because roundtables were prone to excessive talking about irrelevant information. Keep the roundtable to 2-3 minutes per person and focus on the priorities within each department and the identification of issues that need team discussion. As each person speaks, chart the topics they hope to discuss with the team.
Prioritization (5 minutes)
Once the roundtable is complete, review all the charted topics and determine in which order you will resolve them. Start by identifying any issues that require only a small subset of the team. Those issues need to be moved to the weekly overflow meeting (see meeting structure). Then rank order the issues for immediate discussion and dive in.
Issue Resolution (45 minutes)
The bulk of the meeting should be devoted to discussion and issue resolution. For each issue, have the owner provide quick snapshot of what’s going on. Then allow team members to ask any questions. Focus your time and energy on collecting diverse perspectives on the problem. Once the conversation starts to converge around a perspective, make one last check for alternate opinions or options and then document the plan of action, the owner, and the timelines.
Meeting Wrap-up (10 minutes)
No matter how many of your agenda items you get through, stop when you have 10 minutes remaining in the meeting. Seriously…stop. Rather than cram in one more issue, invest the time in landing the work you did get done. Review and summarize the action items, set the agenda for the weekly overflow meeting (including who needs to attend) and add any issues to the agenda for the monthly Business Builder meeting. Then before you go, agree on any communication messages that you want everyone to share with their teams (and be clear on anything that should not be shared).
If you’ve been adding things up, you’ll notice that this meeting ended five minute shy of two hours. That’s because we have yet to invent transporters that can get us from one place to another without the passage of time. Until you have a transporter, you need to leave time for people to get from one place to the next.
What Not to Do
This is not the meeting to be doing a talent review, creating a new process for budgeting, or talking about long-term competitive threats. Those issues should be saved for the appropriate monthly or quarterly meetings. More on those next time!