Re: How Much Time in Meetings? LO3741

Julie Beedon (
Fri, 17 Nov 1995 20:15:13

Replying to LO3735 --

>Jim Cambell Replying to LO371 said a few things which caught my eye--

Sorry folks having been away for over three weeks I have not really
been following this thread and I have only just caught up enough to
read the postings in full (having saved loads I want to reflect on
and possibly reply later). I was however quite taken with Jim's
points (snipping to what IMHO were the best bits)

> Meeting experiences I have had,
>have all carried the preferred approach of the "leader" in construction
>and process, as in, "makes perfect sense to me!!", "there is a right way
>and a wrong way........"

And yet meetings are often, by definition, bringing together a
number of differing perspectives........

>Two aspects stand forward for me: Pattern and Integration. The pattern:
>designed by custom/culture and leader preference. Integration: by
>expected accommodation and adaptation.

Hard then to break out of these into new ways of viewing meetings
and the various roles in designing them....

> Meetings at best are interactive,
>self-organizing processes, imposing a preplan or other style of
>pre-closure slows the porcess rather than opening it. I think many have
>struggled through meetings, where efforts at control, direction and
>preemption have prevented at the least an initial willingness to

>Critical: get to know what about the system will be enhanced or focused
>on, and get to know the individuals who will participating in the meeting.

One of the ways we have found most efeective in doing this is to
pull together a group of the people who represent a microcosm of
those who will be at the meeting - if you can get the variety of
views (cynics especially are useful) and have people speak for
themselves you can work with these people to plan the meeting
through 4 key steps
* have them share data about the system issues
(past/present/future - whatever fits the context)
* have them get clear about what outcomes would represent success
for them and distill these into a clear purpose for the meeting
* have them generate ideas and comment on your process ideas for
how the meeting might deliver those outcomes and meet the purpose
* test constantly against the original data and the purpose (if
they say yeuch to anything - ask how it would need to be....

>The following are some questions that occur to me on the rationale and
>development of a meeting where decisions are made and the process is
>inclusive rather than prescribed from a smaller sample to thinking.
>What experience can be draw on that will enhance understanding and capacity
>to act?
>What would be the right thing to do in reflecting on current objectives and Why?
>Is there a sequence or ordering that can be integrated with current operations?
>How will the proposed actions affect and be of importance to
>clients/customers, organization, processes, staff ?
>What decisions can be made now and refined?
>What decisions can be postponed to gather more information?
>What advantages would there be in swapping early and later decisions?
>Who has experience or learning that applies to the issue to instruct the rest?
>Who can define the larger picture and what this issue means to the organization?
>Who understands strucuring or ordering seems apparent in this issue, what
>steps would you propose?
>Who understands how this will affect and contribute to our customers/clients
>and staff?
>Who will open the discussion, who will guide the thinking/reflection
>Who needs process/decisions? Who wants to open up the possibilities for the

I thought these questions were *great* I would love to use some of
them (if that would be OK with Jim)

>The difficultly that I see and would like to discuss is: "in self-ordering
>systems the outcomes are not clearly known but develop as the process
>flows, an externally ordered process would not be able to adequately
>anticipate possibilities, flexibilities and progressions over time that
>occur naturally in all of our evolving systems. Hence know, reflect and
>learn constantly from the system and individual patterns".

One of the things which seems to be hardest to achieve when
'facilitating' meetings is designs, processes and mental models
which have the participants share responsibility for the success -
when they do they will self-order and achieve the purpose creating
the processes they need if those designed do not seem to be
working - we can predict many of the desired and necessary outcomes
with the team described above but the emergent ones will only be
integrated if self-management, trust and shared responsibility has
been established and people understand the designed purpose
enough to know how they can change it..................

Julie Beedon
VISTA Consulting - for a better future