Sunday, 16 September 2012

Housekeeping rules for a special ops meeting

Every so often, middle to upper management need to meet to determine how best to extinguish a problem or embrace an opportunity.  It's not the usual team meeting where a manager delegates work.  These meetings are held for everyone to agree on one direction and an implementation schedule for each of their departments.  There's nothing more counter-productive than having each department do its own thing without knowing what the other is up to.  For these 'special ops' meetings to be effective the following housekeeping rules should be observed:

#1: As far before the meeting as possible, send out an email to each attendee concisely outlining the problem without leaving anything pertinent out.  To accentuate the problem, describe the current situation, then the ideal situation.  The difference between these two will be the problem or opportunity.  Attach all relevant data with the email.  Don't overload attendees with data.

#2: Invite only the necessary people - nobody below manager level.  This is not an operational meeting, remember.  A manager should not be allowed to bring their subordinate who in most cases can add little to the meeting.  Managers often do this so that they don't have to explain things when they return from the meeting.  On the walk back they simply tell their staff member: "You were in the meeting, I hope you wrote down what you need to do.  I will review your completed work at 3pm today."  Permitting attendance on an 'Invitation only' basis will ensure you get effort and input from the appropriate level, and you also prevent managers from shirking.

#3: Send an agenda with the invite.  Before the meeting begins, agree on the structure of the solution needed to get to the ideal situation (see #4 below).  Stick to the agenda and do not allow scope creep.  If something not on the agenda is being discussed for more than a minute, another meeting needs to be set up for those interested.

#4: These meetings are not held to brainstorm, they are held so that each party can put forth solutions that they have discussed in their own departments/teams prior to the meeting.  Before the meeting begins, everyone will know what needs to be achieved (because of the info you sent out in #1 above), and each person should have ideas on how to do it; the only reason for the meeting is to agree on which of these ideas gets chosen, whose responsibility it is and when they need to do it by.  Therefore as each idea is agreed on, a person responsible with a due date should be written on the white board, the contents of which will then be sent to each person after the meeting.

#5: When the meeting is done, set one more follow up meeting to ensure every person has implemented their part of the solution.

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