Change Your Meetings, Change Your World

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Strategically Using Your Meetings to Transform Your Organizational DNA

Premise: Organizations as living systems must continually adapt and change in response to their environment in order to thrive, survive, and be relevant.

Premise: Recurring meetings are an imprint of the organizational “DNA” at any moment. 

The way the meetings are convened and run—how time and space is managed, how information is communicated, the way in which issues are discussed, how decisions are taken—reflects how the organization is operating at a given moment in time; all the strengths, weaknesses, quirks, processes, games, talents, pecking orders, brilliance, cultural manifestations, dysfunctions, rituals, etc.

Addressing the meeting from a systemic and holographic* perspective makes it an exceptional leveraging opportunity for learning your system’s characteristics and for making changes that can then be replicated in interactions outside of the meetings. In chaos theory, dynamic systems are highly sensitive to initial conditions, and small changes in the system can produce widely different outcomes over time. So consciously addressing how your team and organizations meetings are conducted can be a strategic leverage point in making operational and cultural improvements.

Generally, the purpose of meetings is to:

  1. Make decisions that support your mission, vision, strategy, and objectives

  2. Use the knowledge, creativity, diversity, and talent in the room (or in the teleconference) to brainstorm ideas and possibilities to inform those decisions

  3. Develop the leadership skills of the participants

  4. Energetically align and grow the team of participants and develop the collective system over time

Notice that I did not include to “share information”—when possible information and data should be shared between participants in preparation for the meeting so that everyone has an opportunity to process and digest it before the meeting and be prepared to discuss the implications of it toward creating options and making the decisions. (Perhaps you have sat through long information-crammed PowerPoint presentations watching with dismay and calculating the cost per minute to the company while you take another sip of coffee…?)

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With some commitment to change, some conscious setup, and some alignment around implementation, a leader and a team—and a whole organization—can make a significant discontinuous improvement.

The process is a delegated meeting system called the MetaMeeting Process™, from MetaSystem Integrated Strategies. The process involves rotating roles where the team takes co-responsibility and co-ownership for the success of the meeting, and includes a process for collectively generating the agenda, and for follow-up and accountability. It's an ongoing teambuilding...

Here’s how to do it:

MetaMeeting Process™ Guidelines
How do you put the process in place? Here are the guidelines for setting up a meeting process that will support your organization’s growth and results.

1. Team members and Decision Maker send their agenda items to the moderator by a specific and agreed upon time in advance, ie. 48 hours before a weekly meeting, or 1 week before a monthly meeting. Each agenda topic must be accompanied by:

  • Agenda topic

  • Time requested

  • Desired result(s)

  • Any materials to be read beforehand

2. Moderator generates proposed agenda using the input from the team and the Decision Maker--allocates requested topic times according to how much time available in the meeting, and determines sequence

  1. Decision Maker approves agenda and sets Overall Meeting Objectives

  2. Finalized agenda is distributed to team by Moderator by a specific and agreed upon time before the meeting, ie. 24 hours before a weekly meeting and 3-4 days before a monthly meeting.

  3. Rotating roles may be set in advance, ie. 1-3 months for weekly meetings and 6 months in advance for monthly meetings.

  4. The Decision Driver records the decisions on a shared document during the meetings and reads the decisions aloud for agreement at the end of the meeting,

  5. Copy of agenda and Decision Page(s) reside on a shared cloud resource

The roles:

  • Decision Maker

  • Moderator

  • Time Pacer

  • Decision Driver

  • Coach

  • Participant

Decision Maker—Finalizes agenda for the meeting, does not take any of the other rotating roles, and confirms all decisions made (can also delegate decisions to consensus, vote, etc.)
Moderator—Manages the flow of the meeting & agenda, works closely with the time pacer and decision driver to manage the meeting
Time Pacer—Is a vocal clock for the meeting, working with the Moderator to manage the allotted time for each agenda item and to redistribute time as needed
Decision Driver—Records decisions as a clear action, by when, and who is responsible; reads them aloud, and distributes decision page at end of meeting; confirms whether something is a decision or merely a suggestion or idea; may step in to assure that a discussion is moving towards a decision
Coach—Gives developmental feedback individually to participants at end of meeting—Participants do not reply; feedback is on what individuals and team can improve to more successfully bring results going forward
Participant—Contributes to the agenda before the meeting; is co-responsible for the successful execution of the other roles; is co-responsible for holding a successful meeting; contributes value and participates in the meeting

Every member of the team is also a participant whatever roles they might have, and it is useful for them sometimes to distinguish whether they are speaking as, say, the moderator or decision maker, or as a participant.

As you might notice the MetaMeeting Process will take some coordination to implement. It can be useful to have an outside facilitator to introduce the process and give the team feedback on how they are working with it. Soon the process becomes second nature, and the co-responsibility and active participation in the process transforms the way the teams works together, which transfers to their other shared responsibilities. 

* If a hologram is cut into several parts, after illumination each of them gives the same image as the one in the whole hologram.