While working at General Motors a new technology came out that was going to revolutionize the way we worked, eliminate paper, save time, and make us more productive. Inter-office memos were a thing of the past.
It was 1987 and the technology that was going to revolutionize the work world? The desktop computer. My boss fought to get one in his department of 200 employees. He was the only one who had “the computer” but he never used it. It just sat there staring at you when you went in his office. One day, I asked him why he never used it. He said he didn’t even know how to turn it on. I chuckle every time I remember that conversation.
As I wrote this blog on my iPhone, I thought about how far technology’s reach has become and how it’s changed my personal and business life. Today, I am as close as I have ever been to being paperless. Seamless communication can occur anywhere in the world and yes, to me, that is a truly amazing thing. I just wanted to share with you my top five “Amazing Technologies”:
When I used to travel for work I’d have to get out a paper map and figure out how to get from point A to point B. Now, I no longer use maps or even ask for directions. A small voice on my phone tells me where I am and where to turn.
Information flows real-time 24/7/365 on my phone. I can help ensure information gets to the person who needs it most. Although, I would caution you to create some personal and professional lines when using this piece of technology. Your professional and personal can blur in a heartbeat if not managed.
Texting / emails
Back in the day, we had a “formal business letter”. Transcribed by the pool administrative assistants it was then placed in either an internal memo pouch or in an envelope and dropped off in the mail room for distribution. Snail mail. Now, information flows as fast as I can type on my phone and hit the send button whether that’s a text or an email message.
Do you appreciate the ease with which you can scan an image or document and send instantly? Even after emails were in use, certain documents still had to be mailed via snail mail. Not anymore. I’m amazed by something as simple as a PDF document.
At DaimlerChrysler we had 8-hour global meetings with real-time video conferencing. I would walk into a conference room and my German counterpart sat at the end of the conference table on a computer screen. A six-hour time zone difference and thousands of miles were nonexistent. Being able to see others during a meeting or showing someone in real time a product or facility brings a new level of communication to business.
I’ve shared with you my top five amazing technologies, and I’m sure your list is different. I’m curious what technologies cause you to stop and shake your head in your industry? Feel free to share below in the comments.
Most people hate meetings. Yet, oddly enough, I happen to like them.
Now before you think I’ve lost my marbles, let me explain…
I define meetings in a very broad sense: a gathering of two or more people to communicate. Meetings can move mountains through honest communication. Meetings can eliminate waste and confusion by getting everyone on the same page. Meetings can bring to light risks the team can now work on to minimize.
Meetings are simply the gas that moves along progress.
So why do people hate meetings?
Maybe it’s because there are lots of bad meetings, such as meetings that provide more confusion than answers, meetings that make no difference to the team’s success or failure, or meetings that discuss all the wrong things. Ugh. No wonder meetings get a bad rap.
There are three kinds of meetings necessary for a healthy organization:
- Working meetings: Team comes together to solve something
- Pass down meetings: Sharing of information (All Hands meetings)
- Report out meetings: Status updates, Metric reviews (usually includes recovery or continuous improvement plans)
Either you’re the Creator or the Attendee and in either role, only you can prevent BAD meetings.
- Identify the meeting’s purpose and provide an agenda. No exceptions.
- How many times do you get called into a meeting and have no idea why. If you expect someone else to provide information – tell them ahead of time so they can bring it and be prepared.
- You are responsible to ensure the meeting’s productivity. Constantly assess if it is accomplishing your needs. People’s time is a company resource -it’s the same as spending money on supplies and tools. Are you being a good steward?
- If a meeting needs a different format, change it.
- If you find no one is coming it’s either seen as not productive or your time slot stinks. Change it!
- If the meeting is no longer needed, stop having it. Heresy? No, more like reality.
- If you are a member of a standing report out meeting – own your information. The team is counting on you to share what is important for success. Come prepared to share the specifics of what is needed to improve your metric. Be prepared to elevate the “important”.
- Don’t throw issues out without having first done your homework. If you see a problem, pull the right people together and solve it (Yep, you should have a working meeting before you throw out the issue).
- Know your meeting types! If you are reporting out, you better have had working meetings to support your report out plans.
- If you are there to “just” listen – then take copious notes, communicate back, and think how you could pro-actively help the team.
Minutes are time consuming but necessary. Too long after the fact and they become worthless like day old fish. In a time-sensitive (or as a friend says “fluid”) environment, too long could be 12 hours. Have you ever tried:
- An action item list. It’s a great way to track commitments, people and timelines.
- A shared file. It could be as simple as an excel file and it can go a long way to keeping everyone on the same page.
- A simple white board. Put it in a common area. Everyone can see it.
If we remember that the purpose of any meeting is communicating and we each do our part to communicate better – “meetings” may actually be liked. Now, who’s got the cookies to the next meeting?
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy to craft your message. All the while, knowing you get one shot at communicating (kind of like this blog, perhaps?) – with little feedback. Your data is organized. Your flow, impeccable. But there’s one more element of the presentation you need to ensure. And it’s a big one. It’s the interpretation of your message. What will your audience leave with? What will they remember?
If you have watched the recent presidential debates I think the best part is what happens afterwards. The candidates or their “spin doctors” crowd into the press room each trying to “interpret” what you just heard. What they “really” meant. Why politicians can’t just use plain english like the rest of us is for another post. Perhaps they just didn’t remember to use “The Rule of Threes”.
Maybe they didn’t:
- Use three different ways to communicate the message such as a story, an example, or a memorable sentence.
- Use three different facts, data, or information to support their conclusions.
- Repeat the message three times throughout the presentation. Repetition helps people retain the message that needs to be remembered.
Take a moment to look at your presentation. Where can you incorporate the Rule of Threes in your presentation?
If this guy invited you to his meeting, I think it prudent to ask for the expected outcome in advance. Just saying…
Wow – my informal survey shows there’s a lot of strong opinions about meetings. Everyone’s been to “that meeting” organized by “that guy/gal”. There is a “force” and it isn’t with you. It’s the kind of meeting where you leave with less information than you had walking in the door.
If only you could get the last hour of your life back you think to yourself. There is a way. In fact, based on your input, I would propose there are 10 ways. 10 logical approaches to improve your meetings and help influence your immediate culture (i.e., respect, communication, team work, execution, to name a few). They are almost too logical, simple even, yet you don’t have to be a Jedi Knight to do start doing them.
- Before organizing a meeting – determine what you want from the meeting (information collected, information given, discussion/work, other). If you do not know what you want from the meeting, no one else will either
- Invite only those that are necessary to meet the objective of the meeting – less can be more
- Schedule meetings in open calendar spaces (Do not create intentional conflicts!). If you have to schedule over something, let the person with the conflict know why you had to create the conflict AND why they are needed in your meeting over another meeting
- Start the meeting with the purpose/objective – end the meeting with a summary indicating if the objective was met and what the next steps are
- If you do not think you need to go to a meeting, ask the organizer why you were invited. If there is not a good reason, decline to go
- If you can’t make a meeting, let the organizer know you can’t make it and why. Or, send a representative
- In the Outlook meeting notice: include an agenda and the expectation of the meeting
- When you are seeking information in the meeting – give people a heads up so they can come prepared
- If it is a cross-functional formal meeting, put out meeting notes – especially if decisions were made, or actions were requested
- Realize any gathering of two people is a meeting. Meetings are not bad if true communication is made
Let me know if any of these work for you or if you have more suggestions.
Can you identify the “800 pound gorilla” in your meeting nobody will discuss? (Maybe a simple banana will make it go away?)
Last week we talked about culture – and how we all are contributors to the culture we live in. How we contribute is influenced by the infrastructure we operate within.
Using the example of meeting structure, we looked at how the culture of safety was influenced. Some other things that could/do influence culture would be: communication tools, problem solving space, reporting / governance. Anything that influences our interactions with each other plays a part in our infrastructure. If you can identify key components, cultural shifts can be sparked by some basic simple changes. The hard part is tuning into what those things could be.
Of all the possible influencers, there are four invisible influencers on culture that I would like to explore over the next couple of weeks:
- Meeting structures
- Electronic communication
- Bad news
I use the word “invisible” because they are usually ignored just like the proverbial “800 pound gorilla in the room”. They shape the interactions we have, and by shaping them they can either add or subtract from the culture. Most of the time, people put little thought into these interactions. We must understand why we do stuff and be intentional in what we do.
Over the next week please think about the following questions:
- Why do we say we “have too many meetings?”
- How come no one ever says, “I can’t wait for that meeting. I’m stoked. I want to get there early. Giddy-up.”
- Do we understand why we have been invited to a meeting?
- Do we go to meetings with expectations? Does the meeting organizer know our expectation? Do we know the meeting organizer’s expectation?
- Meetings can be informational, discussion based, informal working meetings… Which kind of meetings do you think you have too many of?
- How many meetings do you schedule vs attend?
- If not in meetings, where do you think communication is taking place, or should take place?
I am going to be seeking some informal feedback over the next week. Would love to hear your thoughts.