Our blog has been discussing meetings. Last week we talked about agendas and the week before we suggested a possible one hour agenda for the first meeting of a group. This week we’re going to continue with more ideas for the one hour meeting because everybody’s time is limited and it’s important for meetings to be as productive as possible.
Two weeks ago we suggested at a first one hour meeting to lay some foundation before starting to work on particular issues. If all the foundation work is completed, the next step would be to brainstorm some problems or issues.
If there is a particular problem to work on, focus on the issues that are associated with that particular problem. A very effective problem solving technique that can be used to identify these issues is brainstorming. What we normally tell groups is everybody does brainstorming but we want groups to get the most out of their brainstorming sessions.
One of the ways we suggest is not the traditional popcorn style brainstorming but a round robin approach or each member of the group gives one idea at a time. Groups continue to go around until everybody has given all the ideas. This process allows everybody to participate. Another approach would be to have group members think about issues in between meetings and then using the round robin technique to get all those ideas.
Some groups may think the round robin process is long and tedious without results but the exact opposite is true. Think about popcorn style brainstorming sessions in meetings you have attended. More than likely the group got off the topic probably more than once and it may have taken some time to get re-focused. The round robin allows a group to focus just on the problem at hand and is much more efficient at group problem solving. Much can be accomplished in a short amount of time.
Just identifying issues during a one hour meeting can make problem solving very effective because it’s not rushing to decision and identifying many issues. A lot of times, people think they have to hurry up and solve a problem only to find fault with the solution they came up with later on. By taking time to not rushing to decision more time is given for full exploration of the problem and finding multiple solutions to evaluate later. Yes, some decisions need to be resolved quickly but they should also be reviewed for improvements. Remember in brainstorming, quantity is important, not quality.
One of the ways to get more ideas or thoughts is to have group members talk to constituents in between meetings. A group may identify some issues at one meeting and come back to the next with more after talking with others about the problem being discussed. This shows the group is interested in what outsiders have to say and it shows the outsiders there is some interest from the group to listen to them but it also tells those outsiders what the group is working on. It may help with buy-in for any change that could occur later on.
By doing just problem identification at one meeting, it may allow some time for other quick agenda items such as updates on other items. Maybe the group didn’t complete the foundation pieces. This could provide opportunity for finishing those items or other items that did not get completed at the previous meeting. It also could allow time to develop an agenda for the next meeting which we suggested doing in last week’s blog.
Be careful not to make the agenda longer than what you’ll have time for or putting too much on the agenda. Not completing agenda items can cause groups to become frustrated and quit or not want to participate.
Next week we’ll look at helping groups come to consensus on a starting point with all the issues they have identified.