Do you struggle with chaotic meetings that waste your team’s time and harm productivity? Have you thought about improving your meetings but don’t know where to begin? Our customer, Sivak Stonemasonry, experienced similar challenges for many years. About seven months ago they took steps to correct the problem. We’re excited to share Sivak’s journey of transforming meeting practices through Meeteor and incorporating new ways of working into their company culture.
Sivak builds residential and commercial structures out of stone with minimal environmental impact and an old-country business philosophy based on trust and sealed by a handshake. Founder Jason Sivak began the business 17 years ago out of the pure desire to work with stone as his life’s work. Earlier this year, Sivak brought in Landscape Architect Joseph Rollman as a business partner to help grow the stone masonry company into a full service design-build firm offering professional design services, excavating, and landscape construction.
For a company whose vision it is to “work with the harmony of the landscape to create unique works that flow with their surroundings and foster an individual sense of place,” meetings were the cause of great discord. “The chaos was driving me insane,” says Jason of staff meetings characterized by haphazard discussions, off-topic rambling, side conversations, and people taking phone calls. Most damaging of all, there was no process in place for recording notes in a centrally located place.
Frustrated, he asked his new business partner to help upgrade their operations and improve organizational effectiveness. Luckily, Joe had heard about Meeteor.
The Sivak leadership team hoped that Meeteor could address their numerous note-taking challenges. “Half the time, notes wouldn’t get recorded during meetings,” they explain. If notes were taken at all, they would be hidden in someone’s personal notebook or laptop, and were not consistently shared out with the group. This made it difficult for the leadership team to follow up on the completion of tasks that were assigned during meetings.
Once they began using Meeteor, Jason and Joe were grateful to be able to capture meeting notes as tasks, decisions, and learnings for future use. “That whole note-taking piece is fantastic,” says Joe, who admits he has a hard time facilitating and taking notes at the same time in meetings. “I have a much better time recording things and keeping it all organized the way it’s set up in Meeteor.”
Sivak’s Office Manager, Cindy Warner, also appreciates Meeteor’s easy note categorization. Often in charge of meeting note-taking, Cindy can keep up with the conversation even if people are talking quickly or the conversation is jumping around between subjects and outcomes. “OK, the team just made a decision, and I can simply click a button in Meeteor to mark it as a decision as the conversation moves along,” Cindy says. “I don’t miss anything.”
With the categorized notes, the Sivak team can easily keep track of the tasks people commit to during meetings. Each task has an owner and due date and all of the tasks across different meetings are stored in one central place. Jason says, “To be able to see and check off everyone’s designated tasks in Meeteor is really valuable. We can all see what’s getting done.”
When the Sivak team wants to clarify a decision made in past meetings, the first thing they do is consult the record in Meeteor. Cindy shares how easy it is for her to click on the Decisions page and quickly find the past decision and its context. Now the team doesn’t have to waste time and energy rehashing old conversations instead of moving work forward.
The Sivak team was delighted that Meeteor incorporates meeting best practices into the agenda template. It makes their lives as meeting leaders much easier. “Right off the bat, just working through the agenda template was a huge help, a huge leap forward for us,” says Joe.
“It allows us to clearly articulate what the meeting objective is, as well as establish some meeting norms upfront. The process has forced me to think out meetings more intentionally than just flying by the seat of my pants.”
Jason agrees. “Meeteor makes it easy. I just have to go through and fill in the blanks. It’s all organized for me.”
Jason wanted to try Meeteor for its note-taking aspect, but was happy to learn it provided a guide for the entire meeting cycle. “This other stuff beyond meeting notes has all been great – the agendas and the norms. I wasn’t necessarily looking for those but they’ve been a huge addition.” He adds that Meeteor’s list of possible norms seems like “they were written for every problem we had but maybe weren’t even aware of.” Joe, too, notes how norms have helped them facilitate their conversations. “We could call on the norms when people were talking out of turn or having side conversations.”
Adopting the Meeteor software and meeting best practices has transformed meetings at Sivak from chaotic to organized and effective, with meeting leaders taking specific actions before, during, and after meetings to ensure the company’s long term success. “I love it,” Cindy says. “At first when I came across it I thought, ‘Am I going to be able to type fast enough?’ But it wasn’t hard to learn and it didn’t take long at all. Meeteor helps our business stay organized. It’s amazing how it just works.”
Within a very short time, the Sivak leadership team had successfully integrated Meeteor into their work culture: not only adopting a new technology tool but also its accompanying new ways of working. So how did they do it? And how can other companies learn from their experience?
The leaders at Sivak recognized the problem of unproductive meetings, a problem that resonated with everyone on the team. When the whole team has a shared understanding of the current reality (chaotic meetings without clear outcomes in Sivak’s case) and is on the same page for a better future (organized meeting results that everyone can act on), it’s easier for the leadership team to get buy-in to adopt a new tool and process. Making a clear case for better meetings is one of the key reasons they experienced successful adoption and encountered minimal resistance from the team.
The leadership team continually demonstrates their commitment to better processes and improved operations. For example, by modeling consistent use of Meeteor, they positively reinforce its usage. They hold team members accountable for meeting outcomes and expect them to reference Meeteor to stay informed.
The leadership team is on a mission to improve the internal communication and processes at their company. They recognize that just one technology may not be a panacea and that multiple tools could better support a full transformation. In addition to Meeteor, they began using online chat app Slack and a shared calendar system for their project foremen. They also work to sustain the new practices by fostering a culture of learning and self-improvement. They consult Meeteor’s help site for technical questions and subscribe to Meeteor’s weekly blog to learn more about best practices. “Every time we get the email with the blog article it’s pertinent information that speaks to something we’re experiencing,” says Joe. “I read it and say, ‘Wow – this is perfect!’”
The Sivak leadership team is grateful that meetings are no longer an issue for them and encourages other companies struggling with meetings to use Meeteor. They do lament not having known about it sooner, though, because “we would have been ahead sooner.” But “thankfully we’ve got this problem under control now.”