Start Collaborating In Meetings

How To Get People Collaborating in Meetings

CIO Magazine used to have a box at the beginning of their longer feature articles called “Reader ROI”.  It listed bullet points on what the reader would learn from reading the article.

In order to ensure better collaborating we should implement that concept to meetings. Often we go to meetings with one of the following problems:

  • We enter not knowing anything about what will be discussed. Have you ever heard someone else ask, “What’s this meeting for?” Have you ever wondered if you were in the right meeting?
  • We go to a weekly status meeting knowing that the hour will be a waste of time. I was once a project manager at an organization whose PMO held a weekly status meeting.  The PMs served different business units and rarely overlapped functionality. We went around the table providing updates in which nobody was interested.

Another issue is when the person in charge of the meeting has a one hour meeting scheduled. Even when all agenda items have been discussed early, they keep everyone for the full hour.

They may talk baseball, office gossip or other issues outside the meeting’s scope. The result is that you have been sentenced to a one-hour meeting and you’re going to serve your time.

Collaborating is the Reason for Meeting

Meetings have lost their credibility. Meetings, for the most part, are supposed to bring people together for one of two purposes:

  • To inform
  • To make a decision

In both cases, meetings should be about collaborating.

In an informational meeting, one person presents an update to a group of people.  This should be a forum to allow for questions and some discussion to resolve issues, discuss risk mitigation, and decide next steps.

See my related post: Communicate More by Talking less

In a meeting where a decision needs to be made, usually there is a specific issue to be resolved. We have an issue.  We need input from a group of people that have input or decision making authority. Let’s pull them all together for a group decision.

There are times when it is a complex decision and can’t be resolved in a single meeting. When that occurs, action items should be distributed. A follow-up meeting may need to be scheduled.

In any of these cases, the meeting should enable collaborating. A decision should be made or a direction set so that a decision is closer. Action items need to have deadlines and the owners held accountable to complete their assignments for the follow-up meeting.

Imagine a world where meetings were about people truly collaborating. Fewer meetings would be necessary. They would be more productive. People would be more likely to show up and be on time.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at