I want to start from what I wrote in this article: meetings are a scourge of the way people work today, for what they become but for what they are born for. In this second article of this “meetings series”, I’ll tell you how to set goals correctly to get utility from the meeting and not just to make one.
Getting results: what?
Set clear objectives to get results is the secret. Results can also come from random choices or shining talents, but when we’re talking about meetings it is important to watch at the numbers shared in the previous article. What do you want to get from a meeting?
Let’s look at each other straight in the eye: what we all want from a meeting is a result able to put together: vision, action plan, responsibility and alignment between – typically – different organizational departments.
Agenda or goals?
Let’s start from the meaning of agenda I’ve got from the Oxford dictionary:
a list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting, and
the underlying intentions or motives of a particular person or group.
We are facing a problem at the very beginning: discuss a list of items is not a good way to start since the choice of the verb. Discuss. When you think about discussing something with someone the first thing coming to mind is a quarrel. Do I need to add more?
The following part of the definition represents a set of misunderstandings and little clarity even in the hidden, underlying intentions of those who call for a meeting. Do you want to be efficient? Be effective in the words you use at first.
Verbs, not verbiage
The verb used in different dictionaries is to discuss. Think: when you invite anybody to discuss, that’s exactly what you get – discussions. Sterile, no result. And, potentially, there will be long and dark faces, bitter tones and potentially some bad moods.
This is exactly the #1 problem in meetings.
There are those who discuss what jumps to their mind, others unprepared who ask for information, others again who are beside the point because all is jumping around the target
if you need me too talk about the heart, then I could explain first how kidneys transforms food into blood – that flows through the heart
Some attendees will support the meeting leader, others not; somebody will argue in favor, others not. And, in the end, the meeting will close with the need to meet again. And again … and again.
Well, I have to say: it’s a nightmare!
Let an Agenda become a clear set of Actions
Verbs determine actions, actions determine a process (read something about here). Decide, create, define, solve are all defined action verbs who set a precise decisional, creational, definitive and solutive verbs. They sound a little bit different, isn’t it?
Exercise: take the Agenda of any meeting you had, and transform each topic into a goal. This will lead you to think at what will have to happen for each topic in the list.
A clear goal for each topic
Goals are useful when connected to purpose, to the organization’s mission and thus vision. Building goals are at least 50% of the job to manage a good meeting. A well-defined goal is challenging and achievable, and achievability makes the meeting sparkling, active, functional.
The PROMEET method
Taken from Lego Serious Play® facilitation method, it is optimal because focusing through the full hierarchical decision process, getting goals:
- at the purpose level, in agreement with the organization’s purpose, mission, and vision
- at a strategic level, in agreement with strategy and organizational goals
- at a meeting level, to build tiles matching well at strategic and purpose level
Based on a lot of surveys and feedbacks from meeting attendees, perceived agony in a meeting depends mostly on the lack of purpose.
To match those results it is important to follow the above schema to develop a tactic in reaching goals who, added to values and self-being, can produce a clear purpose.
To reach this, what you need is: good verbs, clear subjects, clear results as in the below examples:
Agree on a set of products that are attractive for the customer and profitable for our company.
Identify 3 solutions or technologies to track the consumer journey.
Plan all the actions to perform in the next 3 months to reach first product beta.
Some suggestions for useful verbs are:
IDENTIFY: identify, search, find, determine, explore
UNDERSTANDING: understand, review, update, assess, evaluate, share, outline, acquire, acknowledge, report, recognize
PLAN: plan, setup, deliver, establish
CREATION: create, develop, build, produce, design, make
AGREEMENT: agree, decide, determine, insure, confirm, commit
ANALYSIS: analyze, divide, summarize, segment
LEARN: learn, assimilate, study, understand, examine
CULTURAL: enable, enthuse, maximize, unlock, improve, enroll
Each goal must be specific, so having a correct level of details; measurable, otherwise you won’t ever know if the goal is reached; achievable to keep motivation; relevant, to avoid somebody could think to reach the moon by bicycle; time-bounded to have a pace in checking progression; exciting to add some more motivation; re-adjustable because even an airplane adjust its route for about 90% of its flight time – this is needed to react on external variables.
Plan on the answers
All the answers you can get are very useful to plan the meeting. What answer is usually coming out from the yet-to-come meeting? Preparing questions, of course! Ask all stakeholders at least a week in advance some questions to get answers some day before the meeting and much important to build goals aligned with purpose, strategy, and objectives of the whole company. Here are some important questions:
- By the end of the meeting, what is the best outcome you’d hope for?? [focus on results]
- What are the Business Objectives this meeting must serve?? [context reasoning]
- Imagine the meeting has been wildly successful, what will have changed for the better?? [change objectives]
- Suppose we look at the meeting as a step in a larger initiative, what’s the ultimate goal? [purpose to match]
- Is there anything else you’d like the meeting to achieve? [added value]
Any answer will influence the meeting preparation so it is important in the preparing phase to make up your mind listening to the deepest meaning of them, to get a stimulating yet engaging agenda for both attendees and the organization.
Time for meeting preparation
All depends on the meeting size, on the goals, and on the pace, you want to have for a set of meetings. I’ll write deeper in another article about these aspects. At the moment, consider that a decision meeting, gathering 20 people and with a timeframe of 2 hours needs a preparation time of about 1 day.
One full day? Are you joking, Enrico? And how do I progress on my other activities?
Yeah, you’re right. One full day. Let me show you why this is gained time.
Traditional Agenda, few or zero documentation. 20 people in 2h make 40h, so about 5 days of work. Success level is below 20%, with an additional meeting it reaches 50% and with a third meeting 87%.
So, three meetings with the same people are about 15 days of work, and we still need to add the time spent in finding the right time slot and the overall elapsed in time. Money spent, time wasted, lost opportunities.
A good “agenda” takes 1 day, and 1h per participant (let me explain this 1h time in further articles). so, 8h + 20 x 1h = 28h.
Then, the meeting: 40h.
Finally, a good meeting report, let’s say additional 4h.
In total, we use 72 whole hours, corresponding to 9 days of work. Success level is about 90% so to reach about the same success rate we’re using 6 fewer days out of 15, 40% less time, and we’re not considering in this -40% the elapsed and the lost opportunities along this elapsed of a traditional meeting.
These results are surprising, isn’t it? See you in the next article, where I’ll write about the kind of meetings and the best way to manage each one. Are you interested? All you can do is just following me!
In case you’d like to share opinions, or going deep into a topic, write to me in the comments below or send an email to: contactme [at] enricocarollo [dot] com
(cover photo: crop from a picture by Michael Heuser on Unsplash)