Please {Don’t} Take a Seat

Consider the last five meetings you attended.  Was there a fair amount of whining about what’s missing in the company?  We need stronger sales people, our head of marketing has lost her touch, our VP of operations is much too soft! Many executives instinctively look outside their company for new talent when things are not getting done.  Sometimes that’s required to shake up the gene pool, but not always.  First, take a hard look inside your meetings.  The productivity culprit may be your meeting protocol.

When I first began to ‘go to meetings’ as a young Booz, Allen and Hamilton consultant (back in the days when Hamilton got equal billing), senior executives would stroll in with a cup of coffee and the conference room banter centered around sports, some current event, a recent company win or the latest juicy office gossip.  Now it seems, everywhere I go, the first thing people do is lay their mobile phones on the table as if they were Rooster Cogburn slamming his revolver on the bar!

More recently, this cell phone ritual is followed by a discussion and inevitable comparison of mobile phone apps. As an alternative to the traditional conference room and its associated banter, we added a ‘stand-up’ conference room to keep folks from getting too comfortable during meetings.  It worked great for scrums and quick huddles on time sensitive issues and that was just what it was designed for.

Whether or not you plan to add a stand-up conference room, start developing a meeting model that assigns action items and holds people responsible for completing those items.  How many meetings have you attended where action items were taken and then events overwhelmed the issue and nothing was done?  Keep a log.  When an action is complete, update the log.  If the action is not complete, the entire team will have a record of the accountable person.  Have a scribe for each meeting (rotate the responsibility).  That person has the job of publishing the log to the portal and reviewing the actions during the next meeting.

But if you are really dying to try the stand-up conference room, take the chairs out of one of your meeting rooms.  There is usually no need to get really comfy.  Replace that mahogany beast with a chest high table and I promise, the pace of your meetings will pick up considerably and increased accountability will follow.

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