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:
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.
We want to minimize
unnecessary time spent at meetings due
to both cost and frustration issues.
We do not want to
restrict access to meeting content or
participation without good reason.
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"
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
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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