It’s OK that you don’t like meetings. Not many of us do. However, if the meeting gives you something you need, then – provided the time investment was reasonable for the gain – you might leave glad that you attended. This is more easily accomplished in tactical or project meetings. You talk about progress, assign new tasks, and schedule the next meeting. What about the strategy meeting? That’s the one where everyone gets to talk – or hear themselves talk – but nothing seems to come out of it. It’s the meeting that usually collapses into a detailed tactical discussion about how to solve current problems or who to promote instead of peering into the future. If your complaint about management or strategy meetings is “We talk about the same stuff every time and never do anything different,” then change the agenda. When you talk about your company the conversation will always become tactical. The trick is to talk about the rest of the world. Here’s one agenda idea:
What’s New? What’s Hot? What’s Working? What’s Not?
Start with What’s New? Attendees have to offer one news item or interesting development from outside your firm that is relevant to what you do or should be doing. If someone brings up old news – slap it down. You don’t have to discuss every item brought up. Some things are just informational, but you will notice that these items will come up later in your discussions.
Next up, What’s Hot? The previous news items are not hot – they are information or developments. Hot is emerging trends or established trends that you somehow missed. This is the time for goofy out of the box talks. Attendees should bring something that excites or worries them. This takes some discipline as it requires that managers read and stay on top of news, products, and technology. Not every Hot item will change the way you do business in the future. Consider this a monthly environmental scan.
What’s Working? is success stories from outside the company. It could be a marketing campaign, an advertisement, a cool product that is gaining traction, a brand – you name it. It doesn’t have to be from your industry; you can learn a lot from what others do. It’s not fair to ask the presenter “Well, that’s a nice story Tom, but what’s it have to do with us?” If it works for someone, then it’s worth knowing about.
And finally, What’s Not? brings stories of other folk’s missteps. Not to dwell on the negative, but “They also serve who are bad examples.” I have seen more than one executive delete planned initiative slides after hearing the story of someone else failing at trying the same thing.
What does this exercise do for you and your team? It gives you PRACTICE at thinking strategically. These stories will plant seeds of ideas that will one day change how you do business or what you sell or to whom. Learn to ask the right questions. Why did that company develop this new idea? Why is this trend hot and what happened to the last trend? What makes their idea work when the other guy’s didn’t? Why did that idea fail?