Effective Meetings by Phil Hodgson & Jane Hodgson

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Effective Meetings by Phil Hodgson & Jane Hodgson

Postby satisfactionuk » Mon 07 Feb 2011 4:36 pm

The Sunday Times Business Skills on Effective Meetings

Hi,
Conducting and chairing effective meetings is one of the prime responsibilities of a Project Manager that encompasses a high level of interpersonal skill and a well organised administrative ability. As the chairman of the meeting it is important that you do not appear to be a dictatorial committee of one but recognise that your main function is to stimulate constructive debate aimed at coming to a timely decision.

A couple of decades ago when I first started chairing meetings I found that they very quickly wandered off topic and degenerated into uncontrollable chaos where different people vied to get their point of view across in an incoherent manner that caused resentment and in some cases open hostility. I knew that if the organisation was to function effectively I had to accept that the responsibility for this dilemma lay firmly at my feet.

Following a little research on the subject of conducting meetings I came across this little gem of a book that is packed full of really good advice.

The book taught me how important laying down clear and concise ground rules for all meetings is. It is no good presuming that attendees know these rules by some form of instinct they really do have to be made absolutely clear in a document that is attached to the minutes and supporting information.

To be really efficient the minutes should ideally address only three active topics, which may be broken down into subheadings.

The first topic should be a review of an action that has been completed and include any follow on actions that are deemed to be necessary.

The second issue should cover an issue that has been approved at the previous meeting and is a review of work in progress; this may include the inclusion of new information that has come to light since the approval of the action.

The third and last issue is a new issue to be considered taken from the 'Issue Priority Log Book'. The new issue should be presented in a clear rich and concise format with supporting information, plans, specifications or brochures along with a full cost benefit analysis.

After discussion the issue may be accepted or rejected by the committee or board. If it is accepted, any conditions or restrictions may be expressed and included in the minutes and of course a formal initiation and specification document produced.

After these three core issues are completed a new issue in the logbook is selected as the third item on the agenda for the next meeting.

Finally the floor is opened up for new issues and ideas to be included in the Issue Log Book and after this the meeting is closed with advice on the date and timing of the next meeting.

Conducting meetings in this way means that if the committee or board meet once a month they will effectively solve 36 major issues a year, if they meet once a week this number will escalate to 150 issues a year. Meeting on a daily basis this means 260 major issues are solved each year just for one committee.

Obviously this is an ideal and in real life circumstances can conspire to frustrate the system and blow it off course but it is the committee chairman’s responsibility to do his or her best to maintain discipline and keep their meetings on track.

If you have any doubts as to the effectiveness of this system then consider how many meetings with numerous items on the agenda fall into disarray and do not obtain their objectives leaving committee members frustrated and disheartened.

The average cost of a committee meeting is the sum of the hourly salaries of its members multiplied by the committee time (included travel time to and from the meeting) and then doubled to allow for the associated expense for facilitating the meeting.

All of this and much more excellent advice is provided by this book which I thoroughly recomend.

A personal piece of advice gained by many hundreds of meeting is:

When it comes to committee meetings 'THE TAIL NEVER EVER WAGS THE DOG', this translates into the committee chairman runs the committee meeting and controls the committee members not the other way around.

Kind regards

Stephan Toth

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