In light of my last post (My One Secret Tip to Running an Effective Meeting), and taking into consideration all the Twitter activity I’ve seen on the FastCompany article titled: Meetings are a Skill You Can Master, and Steve Jobs Taught Me How, written by the brilliant Ken Segall, I felt the need to write this follow-up post.
I’ve seen first-hand (haven’t we all?) how focus gets diluted when meetings include everyone under the sun that might have an opinion about your project.
It starts innocently, with a “Hey, I know this person who might be interested in this meeting”, and ends up with your meeting invite being forwarded to 20 additional people, some of whom you might not even know.
Next thing you know, the conversation has taken on a life of its own, and people aren’t even thinking about your original meeting objective anymore.
Worse yet, you may have just wasted a whole hour (or more) of your and other people’s time.
These days, that’s just not acceptable.
To address this, Ken writes about the “small-group” approach to meetings (and teams!). In his article, he talks about the concept of keeping your meetings “small”, and enforcing the “small-group” approach.
He illustrates this with the example of Steve Jobs ejecting a meeting participant from the room because there was no need for this person to be in the room.
On the surface, it might seem like Ken is advocating for Steve Jobs’ approach to “ejecting” unnecessary players from meetings.
Personally, though, I think Ken is saying a lot more. Ken’s post is really about leadership and achieving great results, through finding the right way to keep your meetings (and teams) focused and effective.
While I don’t advocate Jobs’ approach to “ejecting” someone from a meeting, there is A LOT about the small-group approach that I agree with.
To summarize: Small groups of skilled pople are able to be more focused on the mission of achieving great results.
Ken makes a point in his article that I think is key for people to focus on and really think about regarding how to approach the small-group idea:
“One must be judicious and realistic about applying the small-group principle. Simply making groups smaller will obviously not solve all problems, and “small” is a relative term. Only you know your business and the nature of your projects, so only you can draw the line between too few people and too many. You need to be the enforcer and be prepared to hit the process with the Simple Stick when the group is threatened with unnecessary expansion.”
Analyze your project, organization, and team’s needs to come up with the right definition of “small-group” that works for you (as a group).
My Key Takeaways:
- Not all businesses/companies have (or should have!) the same culture.
Just like people are different, so are companies. What works in one will not fly in another.
- As a project manager, you have the opportunity to lead people by example and influence. You can guide the way towards enforcing the small group concept in a way that stands out and is excellent, but without losing credibility with the people you need on your side.
- Sometimes, ya just need to have a meeting agenda.
In his article, Ken mentions typically not having a meeting agenda when meeting with Steve Jobs, which probably fostered the flow of ideas and worked well with the way that small group functioned.However, in some cases, especially in the scenario where you have different people from different backgrounds and in different locations, having no meeting agenda will probably cause either chaos or minimal participation.
What do you think? Are you a small-group enforcer?