You may have seen a popular comic strip about the massive discrepancy in understanding that can occur in project work among project leads, engineers, clients, and other stakeholders. This misalignment struck a chord with a lot of folks, including us at Meeteor. Why is it so hard for different groups of people to get on the same page? More importantly, how can we prevent it from happening again?
We were inspired to think about how the same disconnect happens with another common workplace activity – meetings. Here we bring our expertise in meetings to the comic strip.
Do any parts of this comic resonate with you? If yes, there’s work to do towards improving meeting management. Let’s take a closer look at how the meeting cycle can break down before, during, and after the meeting.
You, the meeting leader, have likely thought about the purpose of the meeting. How you’ll spend the time is fairly clear in your mind. You send out a meeting invite with the logistical info and what you think is a pretty descriptive meeting title. Maybe you even added a few words of explanation about why you called the meeting, or attached a document for people to read in advance.
So you’ve done the work, right?
Yet somehow the meeting invite doesn’t translate all of your thinking. It does not detail desired outcomes or list clear agenda items. While there is prework, there are no instructions of what to do with it. The context is not clear enough for the meeting participants to be fully prepared for the conversation.
When pre-meeting communication is insufficient, meeting participants may all have different expectations of the meeting. They may interpret the meeting name and limited information differently. Some might even accept the invitation without any idea of what the meeting is about, which reflects larger challenges in the company meeting culture.
When everyone comes in thinking something different, you may have to spend the beginning of the meeting getting everyone up to speed, wasting precious time. But even then, without a clear meeting objective and agenda as a roadmap, the conversation is more likely to travel in unplanned directions. Is that a bad thing? Not always, but it’s likely that you will not have made progress towards accomplishing the meeting’s goals.
Even when the meeting conversation accomplishes the goal, too often there is little or no record of the meeting outcomes – decisions, next steps, and key takeaways. Individuals might jot down some notes, but a collective recap of the meeting outcomes may not exist. Even if one does, it may not be easily accessible to all participants for future reference.
Without shared documentation that captures the highlights of the meeting, people need to rely on their own memories. As we all know, human memory can be quite faulty! As time goes by, each person might recall a different version of the conversation, and teams can end up wasting time and energy rehashing old conversations. If people in the meeting are not clear about the results, it’s almost impossible for other stakeholders who did not attend the meeting to stay informed and aligned.
The result is that meeting outcomes get lost in the ether. The actions people take (if any) can be totally different from the original conversation and may or may not move the overall work forward.
Like any kind of change in life, the first step is awareness. Only when you acknowledge that problems exist can you do something about it. If you’re ready to improve your meeting cycle, start with this checklist.
Did our comic and discussion capture your imagination? We hope so! Please let us know how your meetings have taken off or disappeared into the atmosphere. We always enjoy learning from our readers and customers.
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