Meetings: Critical methods of communication

April 18, 2011

The title of a best selling business book 'Death by Meetings' says it all. No one likes meetings, however, they are a crucial part of a well functioning communication process in an organization. The point of the book was actually that it need not be death by meetings, if only they were conducted efficiently. Meetings are not held just for the sake of holding a meeting they need to have a purpose, to have an agenda to be addressed, for those in attendance coming prepared and for the meeting to conclude with issues resolved, new goals and work assigned and deadlines agreed. They are also just one method of communication and need to be supported by others. For example those that attend such meetings are usually the representatives of another group such as construction or land development and so it is critical that the representatives from those departments communicate the results of the meeting back to his or her group and in turn bring the departments views back to the next meeting. This ensures that the decisions of the meeting are communicated throughout the organization and that feedback and decisions can be communicated back during the next meeting cycle. The reason we usually feel as though it is death by meetings is that none of the above are followed. Groups meet without clear roles being assigned, the goal is ill defined, timelines and deadlines are not assigned, those attending are not prepared and did not complete work the needed for the meeting.  Also if those attending the meeting are not invested in it then they will be the ones reading their blackberries under the table, a clear signal that they do not care about the work being done and are communicating this in as disrespectful, passive aggressive manner they can get away with. Most commonly it is a lack of accountability that causes the most frustrating of problems with meetings. This is most often reflected in those attending not making decisions and being indecisive, in the worst cases this being the behavior of the team lead. If the above basic rules are followed then meetings become not just functional but essential and become a flow of information distributing information from the top of the organization all the way to the bottom. This is a two way flow of information and the meetings include individuals and groups outside the builders company.


Next time The Influence of the Simple Blower Door Test

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.