One of the keys to successfully leading teams of people is to run effective meetings. On the surface, this seems pretty straight-forward. Ensuring you have an agenda, take good meeting notes, and sending action items out afterword aren’t rocket science. Relatively trivial, even though consistency is key and rarely is delivered. However, when you are dealing with those recurring tactical meetings, especially ones that occur multiple times per week, the old model falls down.
To begin with, there really isn’t a simple strategy to produce detailed agendas any longer. Many topics, the critical ones that need to be discussed ASAP, sometimes come up just hours before the meeting. Furthermore, the priority of the litany of things that are on the list changes at a rapid pace. Sending anything in or prepping for those discussions can be fruitless at best, and counter-productive at worst.
Enter the “Weekly Tactical” meeting format:
Some of the concepts in this format were adapted from the book, “Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni, but others were evolved on the spot as the need arose.
The basic premise of the Weekly Tactical meeting is to get a group of leaders together to make decisions. We don’t want to go to meetings to “talk” about decisions, we want to MAKE them. (After all, that’s one of our core job functions) So many organizations are plagued by the notion that meetings are simply to “discuss”, not to “do”. This simple shift alone will increase the effectiveness of most meetings. The word Tactical, for our team, implies that the scope of topics should cover 1 week from the date of the meeting. We have 2 Tactical meetings per week that are 1 hour each.
The following photos show the simplicity of the process. I have a large whiteboard in my office that is refreshed each time we have this meeting. It has the template written on it and is ready when the team comes in. The image at the right shows what the layout looks like. I tend to facilitate the sessions, but now anyone can do it as the process is simple and well understood.
Next let’s break down each section with details.
We have recently added a kick-off titled “Decencies”. This is probably the one I’m most excited about, and most proud of. After re-reading Tom Peters book, “The Little Big Things” last week, I was reminded of the need to refocus our efforts on our people. I’m leading a group of managers and architects and we tend to get mired in the day to day. The complexity and pressure for those leaders is immense and it’s easy to get stuck focusing on “work stuff” and neglecting the “people stuff”. Tom reminded me a second time “it’s all about the people”. Hence, the “Decencies” kickoff was born.
We create actions to recognize the staff and all the things they do every day to make us successful. We also think about how we can connect emotionally with our customers, and hopefully keep perspective.
We then go to each person and ask for their topics. Do you have an issue or topic that you need help delivering? Do you need a team decision? If so, it’s a good topic for our meeting. They each have 1 minute (yes, 1 minute) to get through their entire list, along with associated explanations if needed. We then move to the next person, in order, until we have a list of topics.
Note: we used to prioritize the list, but as of late, we have blown through very large lists so rapidly that we haven’t needed to prioritize. If we start leaving important stuff undone, we will go back to prioritizing.
Actions and Decisions:
We then take each topic one at a time and attempt to give each topic its due attention. We are all aware of the need to get to an Action or Decision so we tend not to lollygag. After some discussion, someone will note, “Do you need us to help choose for you?” or “Is there a next action for this that we can assign to one of us?” More often than not, the topic simply needed a quick decision and some collaborators to ensure there wasn’t something being missed. Other times, the issue is a bit more complex and the initiator needed help deciding on the next steps to take.
As we move through the list, the grid in the image to the right begins to unfold. We assign tasks with associated details, 1 per line until we’re done. Normally a “decision” is indicated with a task to communicate the decision so we ensure we are communicating those decisions effectively.
As a group, we occaisionally bump into a topic that has no simple solution or the right parties aren’t present to discuss. They also span many teams and possibly a large time horizon. These issues we deem “strategic” and get placed in the parking lot with associated detail. We have a few venues that these strategic topics can end up in so we attempt to classify them on the spot
Note: this classification exercise is new. I will update you on how its going.
The three Strategic Meetings are a “TRI-Weekly” meeting that we prepare for in advance. It includes both leadership teams in my organization (Development Managers and Enterprise Architecture) as well as any special guests needed to (once again) make decisions on the topic at hand in the meeting. The second is a “Development Manager” Strategic meeting and the third is “Architecture” strategic meeting….all similar formats. I will try and describe these formats in a subsequent post.
Well, there you have it. This evolved format has helped our team and organization communicate better, make timely decisions, and get aftet the topics we know are critical for success. With the addition of our Decencies section, it will also help us double down our efforts to remain focused on whats important, our people and their well-being!