We have done a few blogs on how to have productive one hour meetings. This will be the final blog on that topic.
A problem solving process was used to guide or use as a format for the one hour meeting. In our last blog on this topic, we finished with gathering information that would help to find solutions to the problem being addressed. We said there would probably be several meetings on information gathering and the utilization of problem solving techniques before the problem could be resolved.
Once all the information has been gathered and any problem solving techniques have been used, a meeting should focus on identifying possible solutions to the problem. It’s important to note the word “solution” is plural. There probably will be more than one solution which could create more than one meeting to determine the best solution.
It may be, for example, the group wants to do a pilot project to as their final solution, it may take several meetings. Once again, information will probably be gathered on the pilot project and reviewed. The pilot project could also provide the group with an opportunity to make adjustments if need be. It will be up to the group to decide when they are done. It is important to remember whatever the group works on and what they determine as their outcome, they should get back together to review the outcome. That is all part of a problem solving or continuous improvement process.
One thing that is a very real caution. A one hour meeting is really a short amount of time if looking at a complex issue. As we have described in the past, a one hour meeting may not start on time and a summary or developing an agenda at the end of a meeting can reduce a one hour meeting easily to 45 or 50 minutes. That may not allow enough time to discuss a problem. It will be imperative to meet on a regular basis. That could be daily, weekly or monthly. Anything less than monthly will almost eliminate any opportunity to make improvements or solve a problem.
On the other hand, a one hour meeting can be done but it’s important to do some things before starting on any problem. These include making sure everyone understands their mission, the entire group understands their expectations or someone has shared expectations with the group, and the group understands what it can and cannot do or someone has provided the group with some boundaries . In addition, the group should come up with their own ground rules to help them with the operation of their meetings.
Here are 5 meeting essentials that need to happen:
1.Once the actual problem solving has started, people need to be allowed to speak their mind. Everybody brings a different perspective based on a variety of things such as experience, background, age, etc. Those perspectives need to be encouraged to get new ideas to identify problems and come up with solutions. Stifling ideas because of time constraints will only be seen as critiquing and discourage participation.
2. Another item absolutely needed is an agenda. This will help keep the group organized, remind people of any action items to do and make sure any item the group wants to address is done. An agenda should be completed before the end of the meeting when everybody is present and everybody has a voice in setting the agenda. This is also why a one hour meeting may not be realistic. Meeting planning is too important to eliminate for extra meeting time.
3. It also is important to have minutes taken at a meeting because this will provide a record of the group’s work. Some groups have certain members that will take minutes but taking minutes and being involved in the discussion is very difficult. If someone from outside the group can take minutes, that is the best option so all group members are not distracted from discussion.
4. A facilitator is essential if a group is adamant about a one hour meeting. That facilitator can help keep the group focused and on track with their goals. A facilitator will have the necessary tools to help a group with interpersonal issues and problem solving skills. Without a facilitator it’s very easy for groups to get off track, flounder and dissolve. Groups can have difficulty handling the interpersonal issues themselves and not everyone has the necessary problem solving skills needed for group process. Training in problem solving and interpersonal skills may be the best resource for a new group. In the long run, it may save valuable time.
5. Finally, one, if not the most important attribute to have is patience. We live in an instantaneous society. We’re used to television shows that solve problems in one hour episodes. We don’t see the amount of actual time that is involved in solving those problems. Our work problems are much more complex. It usually takes years for problems to develop so don’t expect resolving them in one hour or a few one hour meetings. Plan to allow plenty of meetings. Sketching out a time frame may be one of the first tasks a group should address.
Meetings can be productive. People may think meetings should only be one hour because they’ve only seen unproductive meetings. Maybe more than one hour will be needed as a group progresses. Meeting length doesn’t have to be the same with each meeting. The group may decide one of their meetings needs to be longer or a few meetings should be longer. It’s not about the length of meeting time as much as it is making meetings productive and solving problems. Good luck!