Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making Meetings Matter

I had a meeting with my boss earlier this week.  In it, we discussed three separate projects, each at different stages.  Each project had different requirements and impacted different parts of the company.  Ultimately, the meeting didn't help much for all the time we spent on it.  It wasn't the fault of the diverse array of discussion topics but rather how we managed the meeting.  I left with a distinct sense of "wait, what?" (especially for our new project).

I'm sure I'm not alone in dealing with such things.  Over the next week, I'll investigate some things that anyone can do to salvage a meeting.  For today:

Ask Dumb Questions.  

This culture of head-nodding we've cultivated is hurting us.  Too often we pretend we heard or understood the past five minutes when in reality we were all off in dreamland accepting our third Nobel.  Asking for clarification helps glean details that may otherwise slip through the cracks and cause a Malcom event.

If you don't understand something, ask.  If you're confused, perhaps others in the meeting are as well.  Chances are, you'll avoid costly communication errors later on.  These dumb questions can also bring up flaws that others might not have heard of.  If I had thought ahead to ask specifics, I'd understand the scope of our new project a lot more and would be much more effective in my research.  Unfortunately, I'm now forced to ask them via email.

If you're the boss, create opportunities during a meeting for people to ask clarifying questions.  Make sure to cultivate a non-critical atmosphere (but bring a Nerf gun in case anyone dozes off!)

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