I have spent almost 30 years in various management roles in my working life. During that time I must have attended many thousands of meetings. These were regular weekly meetings, board meetings or meetings to run specific projects. No doubt you have done the same. How many of these meetings were truly effective? If I’m honest, the vast majority probably did not do much more than keep the attendees informed of what was going on. Which brings me to the point of this post. What are meetings for? We set agendas but do we establish desired outcomes? And do we follow up as we should?
Over the past year we at Globocol have worked exclusively within the IBM Connections social business platform for all communications. That includes for example, managing projects, sharing and co-editing documents as well as running meetings. The transformation in the way we work is phenomenal. Meetings are now not just specific events in specific locations at specific times. They are a process where decisions are made and actions are taken on an ongoing basis.
In the past we met in a specific location face-to-face. That is still valid and important but not always necessary. If you can make it conveniently to the same physical space, then great. If not, it’s not a problem. What technology enables is the option to decide if physically traveling to a host office is the most effective use of your time.
No More Email Attachments
The main value to us from using the Activities app within IBM Connections is not about being able to meet remotely. It’s that it has completely changed how we run meetings. We still set agendas. But we do it differently. We post a message with a link to the agenda which attendees can add to themselves. It is a single action from the meeting Chairperson rather than having to check multiple email replies and editing/sending out multiple versions of an edited agenda document.
Thereafter, the meeting can be held online, offline or a mixture of both. That’s not the issue. The key thing is that each attendee has their laptop or tablet in front of them and we work through the agenda collaboratively. For example, if a document needs to be viewed it is a very simple matter to access and even co-edit that document during the meeting. But that has not been the main transformative aspect for us of running meetings through IBM Connections.
No More Minutes
What has changed for us is that we no longer produce minutes AFTER meetings. Rather, we do one of two things DURING the meeting:
That’s it. The focus on each agenda item is on decisions and actions. A “Decision” is something that doesn’t need immediate action and is there for the record. An “Action” is a decision which needs to be acted upon and completed by a defined date. This simple clarity of purpose really focuses everyone’s attention. There is less time spent going off on tangents or indulging the loudest voices. We continually come back to “What are we to do about this?"; "Who will do it ?"; and "When?”. It is the technology that facilitates this, not just during the meeting but afterwards.
Post meeting, there are no minutes to write up and distribute. That’s all done in the meeting. Any “To Do” items are transparently allocated to individuals with timelines. If there are bottlenecks it’s clear where they are and who needs to be chased. People who didn’t attend the meeting can be brought in to the dialogue. Documents can be shared and co-edited. Links to external content can be created. All this under a single meeting title, on a single platform, which can be accessed on any device at any time. It really has transformed our ability to get things done. The thought of going back to the way I used to work is inconceivable.