Time for fall cleaning – Do we really need all the meetings we hold week for week? Or could we just get rid of one or two?

Well, the issue with your habits is that you simply do the things you do, and you rarely think about why you do the things you do and whether they really make sense. This also applies to all meetings in our daily office routine – both to those meetings organized by you yourself and to those meetings to which you “only” were invited.

Now that the first leaves are falling from the trees and we start to clean up our verandas and balconies to get them ready for winter weather, it might be a good idea to take a look at our meeting routines to do a little fall cleaning there, too. Because I am quite sure that whoever takes a closer look will inevitably see that we may well get rid of one or two meetings or that such meetings may be structured differently to increase efficiency. And those of us who are “only” invited to participate in meetings have a shared responsibility for good collaboration and therefore are required to contribute ideas which meetings we can get rid of or which of those should be designed differently at least.

The first question to ask is: What purpose should any particular meeting fulfill? 

  1. Should information be transferred or shared?
  2. Should the team be offered room for discussions? Should different opinions and perspectives also be shared or ideas be gathered? 
  3. Or should decisions be made by the team?

When none of these purposes is the focus of the meeting, it might be the case that the meeting is obsolete and can be swept away during fall cleaning! 

However, if the meeting serves one of the three purposes mentioned above, the most suitable format has to be selected for the meeting: 

1. A suitable meeting format for the purpose of information transfer is: provide information, clarify any questions to enhance understanding, and note objections, if any. The meeting facilitator has to ensure in particular that any contributions to the discussion are not questions of understanding in disguise.

2. If the participants are expected to engage in lively discussions and if new ways of thinking should be made possible, it is important to provide space and ensure safe conditions – in other words, to maintain space. In this context, clear rules for the meeting flow are required to be established, and compliance with these rules needs to be monitored. A potential meeting flow could be as follows: collect topics; set up priorities by the team, for example by giving scores to each topic; allocate time slots as to how long each topic should be discussed; and finally ensure that these time slots are observed. If decisions are required at the end of the discussion, refer to 3.

3. Yes, any team, as a whole, can make a decision together. The question that definitely needs to be clarified in advance is: Does the manager really want to delegate the decision-making authority to the team? If this question is answered in the positive, there are, among others, the following variants as to how a team may come to a decision:

  • The well-known majority vote: each team member awards a score for each topic, and then the variant with the highest score is chosen. The downside of this decision model is that there is no possibility to identify when a person cannot go along with this variant for any particular reasons.
  • The reluctance vote: the team members award a score reflecting their individual reluctance to get on with a particular variant (e. g. 5 reflecting high reluctance, and 1 reflecting no reluctance); the variant with the lowest overall reluctance score is chosen. The advantage of this method is that the reluctance of individual persons can be identified and that you are able to exclude variants that are met with too much reluctance.
  • Consent decision: any of the suggested variants is adjusted within the team over and over again until none of the team members vetoes the variant. This decision model very likely will result in a solution that is most viable for the team. However, this requires a great deal of experience from the meeting facilitator.
  • Consultative decision making: the team appoints one of its members to make the decision on behalf of the team; however, this person is obliged to consult specific relevant persons in advance. In this case, the team has to decide at first who is the one to make the decision; the actual, binding decision is made by the person so appointed afterwards.

If a meeting pursues all three of the above-mentioned purposes, it is very important to clearly and transparently distinguish them from each other during the meeting and to use the meeting format necessary for each of them. If this doesn’t happen, the team is stuck in a real muddle and any efficiency is lost. One of the unwanted results would primarily be lost time.

I hope that I have given you a couple of ideas for some fall cleaning in your schedule. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

This text first appeared in my newsletter 'Innovation on Wednesday'. It is published every other Wednesday. For subscription click here

Further reading:

Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 64 34-905 997+49 175 5196446
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