2008年11月3日 星期一

How Not to Run Meetings

How Not to Run Meetings

| | |
Imagine a doctor rolling a patient into surgery saying, 'If I didn't have to operate on people, I'd like my job a lot more.' Or LeBron James telling a reporter, 'If it weren't for the games and the practices, I'd really enjoy being an NBA player.' Ridiculous, right?

Now imagine an executive saying, 'If I didn't have to go to meetings, I'd like my job a lot more.' Of course, I've heard this many times from the senior executives I've consulted to in my career. At first glance, it seems understandable, even humorous. But in reality, there is something very wrong about it.

The truth is, meetings should be the most important central activity in the life of the leader in most organizations. Meetings, for instance, are where generals decide whether to go to war, where executives decide how to deal with a changing market, and where mothers and fathers decide what to do about a family crisis.

But most meetings are run terribly. Leaders too often fail to entertain conflict, create relevant agendas, and squash show-and-tell presentations and lengthy department-by-department reporting that puts people to sleep.

The biggest problem with meetings, though, is that they so often mix tactical and strategic topics in the same conversation. A good way to understand this problem is to think about how it plagues us in our homes.

My wife and I often have our 'meetings' in the morning when we're getting ready for our day. Our conversation goes something like this: 'Who's picking the kids up from school? Do you think we should try to have another baby? What are we going to do about dinner tonight? Where should be go on vacation this year?' We leave having no idea what we accomplished, wondering if we were just brainstorming, making decisions or thinking out loud.

The same thing happens during so many of the executive staff meetings I've observed. Leaders shift the topic of conversation from extremely tactical issues like closing a sale, to a long-term topic like how to position the company for new competition, to more intermediate topics like how much to invest in research and development over the next eighteen months.

The thing is, even the most intelligent human beings cannot make the contextual shifts that are necessary to have all of these conversations in the same setting. And they certainly can't do so in a way that ensures that everyone in the room is on the same page. Some members of a team, either because of functional responsibility or personality, will take a conservative, protective view of an issue, while others will be more creative or daring. The meeting will drift back and forth until time has run out and everyone leaves frustrated that the most important topics weren't discussed and that no clear decisions have been made.

What leaders really need are different kinds of meetings shorter ones, perhaps, but separate nonetheless for tactical and strategic conversations. Clarifying the context of our meetings and keeping those different types of conversations in their proper places will give our meetings greater clarity and focus, which will go a long way toward eliminating the frustration and confusion that we've unnecessarily come to expect.

In fact, one client I worked with credits the change in their meetings to the turnaround of their organization. Back in 2006, a healthcare company was having trouble gaining momentum in the industry. They started to use their Monday morning staff meetings as a 'Tactical Meeting,' focused entirely on tactics to execute their goals. When they were tempted to get off topic and wrestle a big strategic issue, they scheduled a 'Strategic Meeting' for a later time.

If the strategic issue was critical, they would have the strategic meeting immediately after the tactical meeting. That way the entire team was already together to work through the issue right away. The key to their success was being disciplined enough to focus on one strategic issue at a time, rather than mixing it with a variety of other topics.


| | |
想一下,一位醫生將病人推進手術室時對他說:如果我不需要給病人做手術的話,我會更熱愛我的工作。或者設想NBA騎士隊的勒布朗﹒詹姆斯(LeBron James)對記者說,如果我不需要打比賽和訓練,我真的會喜歡做一名NBA球員。聽上去很荒唐,是不是?


Getty Images



以 我家為例。妻子和我在早晨準備開始一天生活的時候經常召開家庭“會議”。我們的談話經常是這樣的:今天誰到學校接孩子?你認為我們應該試試再要個孩子嗎? 今晚晚餐想怎麼安排?今年該去哪裡度假?諸如此類。談話結束的時候,我們也不知道到底有什麼成果,不知道我們是在玩“腦力激盪”、是在做決定還是只不過在 “大聲”思考。


問 題是,要在一次會議上討論所有這些話題,即使是最聰明的人也難以完成必要的前後轉換。而且他們可能做不到讓在場的每個人都同時跟隨主題推進。由於工作職責 或個人性格的關系,有些人會在某個問題上持保守、求穩的看法,其他人則會比較有創意或比較激進。因此,會上會來回扯皮,直到時間耗盡,每個人都垂頭喪氣地 發現,最重要的議題還沒討論,沒有達成任何一項清晰的決定。

實際上,領導者們真正需要的是與此完全不同的會議:或許更簡短、但要將具體戰 術性的話題和總體戰略性的話題分開討論。將會議的前後背景交待清楚、將不同性質的話題分在不同的會議場合討論,這樣就能使會議變得更清晰、重點更突出,從 而有助於消除與會者事先未必能料到的挫折感和困惑感。

實際上,我的一家客戶就把他們公 司的轉變歸功於會議改革。早在2006年,一家保健公司感到在獲得行業發展勢頭方面遇到了困難。他們於是將周一上午的員工會議變成“戰術討論會”,專門用 來討論實現目標的具體策略。當他們想轉變話題討論更重大的戰略問題時,他們會在稍後的時間另外安排“戰略討論會”。