Meetings: A 3 x 3 x 3 Guide

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“If you had to describe in one word why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be “meetings.” “

–     Dave Barry (b. 1947), American columnist, humorist, and man with a great understanding of the life-sucking-effect of bad meetings

Unfortunately, based on experience, I estimate that 93.789% of all meetings fit the description of “bad meetings.”  It’s like service in a restaurant.  It’s become so bad that we don’t notice, until we have a great server, and then we remember why we came.  Quick, write down a list of the great meetings you’ve been a part of in the last six weeks?  Done already?  That’s the point…

For the sake of this overly simplistic approach to the topic, let’s say a meetings is a scheduled interaction between three or more people.  We’ll skip the one-on-one’s for today.

Construct:  Meetings should be used to debate and decide, not to share information.  There are plenty of channels and tools for information sharing.  We share information in advance of a meeting so that we can debate it and decide based upon the debate in a meeting.

Let’s look at the 3 x 3 x 3 approach in the headline.

If You’re The One Calling the Meeting:

1)  Make sure the purpose is clear.  A good meeting has an outcome.

2)  Make sure the agenda maps to the outcome.  A good meeting has an agenda, set in advance, that guides the discussion.

3)  Make sure that everyone knows what preparation they need to do before the meeting and what their role in the meeting is.  A good meeting comes with clear expectations.

If You’re Invited to / Required to Attend the Meeting:

1)  Know the purpose and expected outcome, in advance.

2)  Insist on an agenda and an understanding of your role and what preparation you need to complete in order to be productive in the meeting.

3)  Do the pre-work.  Research.  Prepare.  And, then, when the meetings starts, engage and participate.  Map your thoughts and words to the outcome described in #1.

If The Meeting Doesn’t Have A Purpose, Agenda and Clear Advance Work:

1)  If you’re the organizer, cancel it.

2)  If you’re the invitee, decline it or request that it be postponed until you have what you need to make it a good use of everyone’s time.

3)  Seek the “Why?” answers with your teammates.  “Why don’t we know what we want to get out of this time together?”  “Why are we meeting at all if we don’t have an agenda?”

 

There’s a lot more to this topic.  I recommend Patrick Lencioni’s “Death by Meeting,” which I’ll be re-reading.  Read along with me, won’t you?

 


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