Archives for category: Meetings

Space is almost infinite. As a matter of fact, we think it is infinite. – Dan Quayle

I recently had a discussion with a colleague about getting things done between meetings.  The challenge we discovered was two-fold:

  1. We have all the work that is part of our day-to-day responsibilities – for purposes of this post I’ll call this day-work.
  2. We have all the work that is produced as outputs from the meetings we attend and/or facilitate – I’ll call this meeting-work.

We both were faced with the fact that we participated in a lot of meetings. [Note: for purposes of this post let’s assume that these meetings are meaningful and need to take place.]

While in our meetings our day-work was not getting done. At the same time many of the meetings were creating new work: next actions, new problems, etc. So we now had meeting-work  to accomplish.  When we arrived back at our desks we were faced with the dilemma of getting our day-work and meeting-work completed in the space left between meetings. Sound familiar?

We thought of some tips that might be helpful:

  • Get next actions right: Be sure any next actions that are identified in the meeting are specific, actionable, have an owner, a due date, and who gets the report out of the results.   Honestly, I do not always get this one right and our teams end up with ambiguous actions that when reviewed later are met with confused stares. This way the meeting work can at least be clear and unambiguous and won’t require too much investigation time.
  • Build meeting processes that complete the work for you: When facilitating, I try as much as possible to build meeting processes that result in final product for the group. This means that at the end of the meeting the desired meeting deliverables should be as close to their final form as possible. When done well, this will minimize your post-meeting work.
  • Schedule your meeting work time: As hard as you try to minimize post-meeting work as mentioned above, we often have work to complete as outcomes of our meetings. Use your calendars to hard-schedule that time in to complete the work. This could include 30 minutes prior to the meeting to ensure that you are well prepared for the meeting and 30 minutes post meeting to process the output, get a start on next actions, or schedule future time to handle the work.

What ideas do you have for creating space for meeting work?


While driving in to work today I was hit again (and again) by the fact that many of us operate from a set of disparate ground rules.

For example, while two lanes are merging into one, my ground rule is that we take turns. One car from lane 1, one car from lane 2, and so on.  This morning (and other mornings) I observed that other people have different ground rules – or at least a different understanding of how the rules operate.

One opposing view is “If there is a pause in the action I will try to fit my car in the lane whether it is my lane’s turn or not.”  Yet another is, “I will wait until there is an ocean’s width of space so as not to disturb the magnetic field resonance surrounding my car.”

Many other examples exist in real life:

  • 15 item express lane
  • 4 way stop signs
  • No turn on red
  • No left turn
  • No stopping
  • No talking during the movie
  • No cell phone use

Everyone applies there own interpretations to the rules. So…why the post?

The reason is you may want to take this same set of paradigms and challenge the assumptions that underlie the ground rules from which your teams operate. Ask yourself:

  • Are your team’s ground rules been written down\agreed upon?
  • Are they understood by all? Really understood?
  • Have any assumptions about the rules been tested?
  • Do you review them at each meeting?
  • Does the team take responsibility for them?

This weekend I participated as a volunteer facilitator at one of the largest townhall meetings ever held in the US – over 3500 participants in 60 cities, hundreds of facilitators, taking place over 6.5 hours! The topic of discussion was the US Economy and Budget. The goal – listen to facts, discuss our differences, and come to a majority decision on a number of choices aimed at reducing the budget by $1.2 trillion.

The experience was amazing. First, the organizational and logistic planning was impressive and well executed. Second, working with a table truly diverse in age, gender, race and income proved to me that we can come together, listen to each other, make decisions that benefited an entire society and not just ourselves. I had participants who were able to listen to the stories told by others and change their views in the moment on sensitive topics, including healthcare, social security and spending on defense.

Here are the stats on the diversity of the participants. I encourage you to visit the link above, learn more about how democracy can really work, and think about how you can bring the “voice of the people” into your business, community, home.