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  Use "Flex Meetings" To Improve Communication & Increase Productivity

Meetings are expensive. The more people at a meeting, and the more time spent the more expensive. That's one reason why meeting planning and management is so important particularly when we've moved to a more team based system of work. Effective meeting management is important for more than just the basic cost issues. If meetings are unnecessary, or unwieldy, people at the meetings get bored, frustrated, and start to find ways of avoiding attending.

There's an interesting way of managing meetings so that they are less wasteful of time, and less likely to engender frustration on the part of those attending. Before I tell you about the "flex meeting", here are some basic principles:

  1. We want the right people at meetings. That means that people attending a particular meeting should either have a NEED to be there, or a desire to be there. If people want to be there cut doesn’t need to be there, then they should have the option of attending, provided their attendance won't impede the meeting.

  2. We want to minimize unnecessary time spent at meetings due to both cost and frustration issues.

  3. We do not want to restrict access to meeting content or participation without good reason.

The Flex Meeting

The "flex meeting" actually has two separate parts to it. The first we call the core issues component. The core issue component includes agenda items that all meeting attendees NEED to know about, or need to be involved with. In other words, we put the mandatory and important items in the core issue part of the meeting.

The second part of the meeting is the non-core issues component. We reserve this time for discussion about less critical issues that may be of interest to only some of the attendees. Some of these may be important to SOME people, and totally irrelevant to others.

So, those are the parts. The core issues component is put at the beginning of the meeting. All potential participants are notified that attendance is expected for THAT PARTICULAR PART of the meeting. Consistent with good meeting management, time limits can be set for agenda items. Once the core issues have been covered, there is a break in the meeting, a coffee break, perhaps.

At that point the meeting attendance becomes discretionary. Those that want to participate in discussion of the non-core issues return, while those that feel their time could best be used elsewhere can choose to be elsewhere.

The idea behind the flex meeting is to make sure that the right people are at the meeting at the right time. We want "just the right" arrangement. We don't want people sitting through two hours of discussion that has no value to them, or where they can't contribute value. We also don't want people missing critical "core" information.

An added benefit of the flex meeting is that it empowers staff to decide where they can best allocate their time, and it is structured to take into account core, critical issues, and less critical ones.

If you try this method, you may find that your meetings are shorter, more efficient, and less frustrating. Keep in mind that ANY meeting format should have a clear agenda established before hand and use standard meeting practices to ensure the meeting stays on course and on time.

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