The ROI of Teams LO11431

John Butcher (
Sat, 14 Dec 1996 11:55:05 -0500 (EST)

Lon Badgett (LO11369) provides some amusing and useful reflections on
meetings. I have long wondered why analysis of the dynamics and functions
of meetings hold such fascination for so many people. We claim to hate
meetings, yet can't seem to get enough of them. Maybe it's because we
don't really hate meetings - that claiming to do so has simply become one
of those "politically-correct" things to say. Maybe meetings really are
effective means of communication, decision-making and
organization-building. Maybe we like to get together with colleagues. In
other spheres, we insist on separating "the walk" from "the talk". Why not
just look each other in the eye and confess: "I LOVE MEETINGS".

Having done so, let's pick up Lon's final point - "You can never learn
enough about other people's best practices in handling meetings". Here are
two approaches which I find helpful. They are simple and obvious and
address 95% of the problems which emerge during meetings.

1. Use facilitators. Their "value-added" is in helping groups to focus
their thinking, Facilitators concentrate on process and operate free from
the content baggage that participants bring in. They can help a group to
move quickly and effectively through its agenda, without falling into all
the side issues which so easily arise. Effective facilitators serve as
coaches to their client groups, so that effective techniques are soon
passed on and internalized. Facilitators also free up chairpersons to
become freely involved in the content discussion without appearing to be
manipulating. Facilitators need not be outside consultants. Have a cadre
of people within the organization trained in basic facilitation skills.
They are then readily available on an as-needed basis. Staff often enjoy
the variety which doing ad hoc facilitation work brings to their regular

2. Use flipcharts or other tools to make key points visible as they
emerge. Many people are uncertain whether they have really been "heard".
As a result, they repeat points or refuse to acknowledge others' ideas.
Visibility helps to ensure "clarity" - people know what has been said
because they can see it. They can also more easily build new ideas. The
closed boardroom-style table is the biggest impediment to visibility. Open
up the room and let everyone see (literally") what is happening. This is
the best way to speed meetings along that I know.


John Butcher Associates in Planning Inc. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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