The Modern Meeting Principle 7: Works Alongside a Culture of Brainstorming

Today is the seventh and final day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


One of the main points of the Modern Meeting is show you what is or isn’t a meeting.  Brainstorming is not a meeting.  Brainstorming works alongside the Modern Meeting.  It works alongside a decision. The Modern Meeting focuses on the decision.  Brainstorming focuses the creation of possibilities, which is something that is killed during a meeting.  The goal is to go to place place where people are free to show their creativity, a place where there everyday combativeness of most corporate meeting is put to rest and people feel safe.

A problem with brainstorming is that if the topic deals directly with you’re work, the less effective you’ll be at creativity around the problem.  It’s good to have some outside or new people involved with the sessions because they won’t be restrained by their prior knowledge or ownership on the matter.

Check out IDEO, which Al refers to as one of the most creative and innovative firms in the world.  They also believe that brainstorming is a completely different task then most of the things that normally take place inside conference rooms.

Here are the ground rules for brainstorming from, Read This Before Our Next Meeting:

  1. Let’s invite people who are passionate about the idea. A passionate intern is better than a disinterested executive.
  2. Let’s praise liberally. No criticism, not even evaluation. This is not a regular meeting. If it turns into one, then we have failed. Let’s make sure that the measured output of the meeting is the breadth and quantity of ideas.
  3. Let’s number our ideas. IDEO head Tom Kelly recommends deciding how many ideas you want to have and then shooting for that number. This method forces people to let go of their filters in service of meeting the target number of ideas.
  4. Let’s use a timer. It’s toward the very end that people start flinging up last-minute ideas to meet the mark. Perversely, tension helps us overcome fear.
  5. Let’s have fun. (Most of us have forgotten how to have fun at work.)
  6. Let’s get active. Encourage people to stand up, walk around the room. In fact, get out of the room. Brainstorming always works better in a place reserved for just that. If the room is the very same place where you got excoriated for a lousy quarter, it’s hard to feel confident.
  7. Let’s have a clear focus. Make sure the brainstorm is free, but not a free-for-all. The ideas should be targeted in the direction of the problem at hand. Create a clear problem statement and make sure people are on task.
  8. Let’s have a strong facilitator (or an expert). The cost of even the best brainstorming expert is tiny compared to the benefit you’ll get and the time you’ll save. In addition, an external voice can change the tone in the room more easily than you can.
  9. Let’s not invite the boss or the VP of No into the room. You have to make the environment feel safe for people to suggest ideas that are risky, even controversial. If there is a key leader who is clearly holding the session back, that person needs to go.
  10. Let’s write it all down. A non-participant should chronicle everything, even the silly stuff.

This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 6: Refuses to be Informational. Reading Memos is Mandatory

Today is the sixth day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


The day your company institutes the Principles of the Modern Meeting is the death of the informational meeting.  The key to the Modern Meeting is that it is about a decision.  All the work to make a decision needs to be done beforehand.  This means that leaders need to meet with potential attendees to hash out decisions and then communicate those decisions, information, and pre-work to the other potential attendees.  This process all hinges on the people involved to actually read the memos.

As Seth Godin writes about in his great blog about PowerPoint, Really Bad Powerpoint, “Yes, you could send a memo, but no one reads anymore.” The Modern Meeting can not survive without people reading memos.  It’s a key area of the corporate culture that needs to change.  Ask yourself, “What would you be willing to do to save yourself a lot of time and money?” Isn’t a little reading worth the time and effort you’ll save by not having informational meetings.   That’s the agreement leaders and attendees need to make.

This agreement needs to be taken seriously because the agreement is fragile and can be easily undone by a few individuals.

The last part of this principle is probably the most important.  It’s about how you should send out a memo.   The leader needs to give the attendees something worth reading.  The memo needs to effectively share your complete thoughts to the attendees.  The memo needs to be worth the attendees time.  It’s really no different then the purpose of the Modern Meeting.  We’re trying to do all this work to save time in unproductive meetings.  The memo needs to be worth your attendees time to read and respond.  Needs to tell everyone that this memo needs extra attention without ruining their trust.

Tomorrow will be my final post of the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings: Works Alongside a Culture of Brainstorming.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 5: Produces Committed Action Plans

The more you express gratitude for what you have the more you will have to express gratitude for.

Zig Ziglar, PICK FOUR (Week 5 / Day 5)

Today is the fifth day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


The Modern Meeting makes minutes a thing of the past.  There is no reason to have a description of everything that happened at the meeting because we will already know what happens at Modern Meetings: conflict and coordination.  The only two things people need to know is the decision and the resulting action plan.

If an attendee does not receive an action plan from the meeting then they can choose not to attend the next meeting.

A major part of the Modern Meeting Philosophy is the idea of reciprocation.  If the leader wants attendance to their meeting then they need to give an action plan to the attendees. Here is what an action plan should look like:

  • What actions are we committing to?
  • Who is responsible for each actions?
  • When will those actions be completed?

One person in the Modern Meeting should have the position of the scribe.  The scribes role is to record the main decision and the record and restate the action items to the group to make sure everyone understands what they need to accomplish. Action items need to be clear because this is the whole reason the meeting was scheduled.

After the Meeting

The leader is responsible for making sure attendees are completing the agreed upon action plans in the time frame they agreed upon and holding them accountable.

The Modern Meeting is about justifying the time spent together.  It’s all about putting pressure on action owners to complete their tasks and completing the cycle.  These action plans are a way of showing your attendees that the meeting worked.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the Sixth Principle of Modern Meetings: Refuses to be Informational. Reading Memos is Mandatory.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 4: Rejects the Unprepared

You enhance your chances for success when you understand that your yearning for power is more important than your earning power.

Zig Ziglar, Pick Four (Week 5 / Day 2)

Today is the fourth day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


Preparation is the key and starts with the meeting leader.  The leader is in charge of the agenda and  a set of background materials.

Three parts to the agenda:

  1. Spend time creating the agenda.  It deserves thought, what are the objectives, who’s invited, what they should bring, and how long the meeting will last.
  2. The agenda should state the problem, the alternatives, and the decision.
  3. Agendas demand preparation on the part of the attendees. If attendees don’t have time to complete the necessary rework then they don’t have time to attend the meeting.

The two tenants of the Modern Meeting: conflict and coordination, these both hinge on preparation.

Impromptu comments and the unprepared are dead weight.  In the Modern Meeting the decision is all that matters. Leave your ego at the door.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the Fifth Principle of Modern Meetings: Produces Committed Action Plans.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 3: Limits the Number of Attendees

Success is a personal standard – reaching for the highest that is in us – becoming all that we can be.

Zig Ziglar, Pick Four (Week 5 / Day 1)

Today is the third day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


Limit the number of attendees by not inviting people who can’t contribute to the meeting. Attendees need to have the freedom to decline meetings if they feel they can either not come prepared or they have nothing to contribute. Many people attend meetings because they feel like their jobs depend on it. Meeting organizers and companies need to remove this obligation from their company culture.

Every member of any meeting should ask themselves these questions:

  1. Will you be able to function if you read about the meeting after it’s over.
  2. If you are given the decision in advance, can you give me your opinion in advance?
  3. Do you add any value by sitting in the meeting without participating?
  4. Are you attending symbolically, or simply as a way to demonstrate your power?

If you are answering Yes, Yes, No, and Yes, then you should not attend this meeting. These questions allow organizers and attendees to justify the reason they are or aren’t attending a meeting.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the Fourth Principle of Modern Meetings rejects the unprepared.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 2: Moves Fast and Ends on Schedule

Today is the second day of my week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which comes from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.”


 

How many of us have wasted hours of our time in what seems to be an endless meeting? It’s probably one of the biggest costs to large corporations that they don’t seem to realize.  Today’s companies are so worried about cutting costs yet they allow many highly compensated employees to waste a lot of their time sitting in meetings where they offer no value.

How does the Modern Meeting help to stop this wasting your time?

The Modern Meeting already has a decision made and rework has been completed so they meeting is able to move fast because every attendee does not need to be brought up to speed on the point of the meeting.  Meetings have a hard deadline established and they end on time.

Allowing to much time for a meetings, is one of the biggest problems in our meetings.  To much time, creates circular debates about our decisions, which include no new information and create doubt and anxiety. These two symptoms eventually lead to the decision falling apart.  Keep your meetings as brief as possible and set a firm deadline.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about Principle 3: Limits the Number of Attendees.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

The Modern Meeting Principle 1: Supports a Decision that has Already Been Made

I’m going to do a week long series about the 7 Principles of Modern Meetings, which come from Al Pittampalli’s excellent book on the topic, “Read This Before Our Next Meeting.” Everyday I’ll write something brief about each principle.  Today, I’ll be talking about Principle 1: Supports a Decision that has Already Been Made.

The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.

The Modern Meeting is based on decisions, without decisions there can be no Modern Meetings. They are not discussions about a topic.

The process is based on people making decisions beforehand.  Decision Makers are wasting too much time, in the meeting, discussing the pre-decision items.  Pre-decision input should be gathered before a meeting is scheduled through personal one-on-one conversations.

The Modern Meeting can be used to debate serious objections, better alternatives, or proposed changes, but you need to make a decision and own the outcome.

There is a bias for action and it leans toward speed. It focuses on the only two activities worth convening for: Conflict and Coordination.

Conflict:

Make your decisions and stand up for them but don’t be stubborn.  The Modern Meeting is about dealing with conflict.  Discuss the conflict and keep an open mind to other ideas.  You don’t need to be a pushover but all ideas should be considered.  All ideas are the accepted because the Modern Meeting welcomes dissent.

The only exception is if you are unwilling to change your decision.  If you’re unwilling to modify your decision then don’t have a Modern Meeting.  Move forward with your decision.

Coordination:

Decisions can lead to action but they won’t lead anywhere unless they are executed.  To execute on a decision there could be a need for a lot of coordination between teams, departments, division of labor, differing scenarios, and collaborative problem solving.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about Principle 2: Moves fast and ends on schedule.


This blog post is from the Seven Principles of Modern Meetings which can be found in this great book:

Pittampalli, Al (2011-08-03). Read This Before Our Next Meeting (p. 40). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.