Meetings continue to be both a curse and a blessing of working with others, especially in larger organizations or across teams. A recent story on Quartz# puts a dollar sign on the lost productivity in bad meetings:
A Bain & Company study of one firm estimated that one weekly meeting of an executive committee created 300,000 hours of extra work—including the prep, additional meetings, and followup that cascaded down to other employees.
I've long maintained that conversation is a tool -- and a strategic one at that. Christ Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon agree. They authored a simple and straightforward manual for creating Moments of Impact.
The book includes a 60-page starter kit that will help you design strategic conversations that accelerate change.
When defining your purpose, say the authors, you should pick one and then communicate it. Strategic conversations have just three overarching purposes:
1. Building understanding -- this is the classic FYI. Use it when your group doesn't know much about the issues, or has sharply divergent opinions on them
2. Shaping choices -- you are requiring input, requesting feedback and guidance. Select this version when you have a lot of knowledge and are spinning your wheels on what to do.
3. Making decisions -- this is pretty clear, and is is the most common version of what people try to make every meeting about. However, in many cases the group may not be ready, not have enough information, or lack the proper authority to make a decision right off the bat.
Some meetings may start with building understanding to then end with a few choices for the group to consider later. A shaping choices session may begin with a brief understanding portion to get everyone on the level and prepped to provide preliminary takes on an issue, for example.
The critical factor in designing for impact is to be very clear up front on the kind of conversations you want to have and communicate it to participants.
You probably heard the term VUCA -- it means volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity# of general conditions and situations. We live in a complex world and every day are called to make important decisions based on incomplete or open-ended and often fast-changing information.
Marketing used to be complicated. It is now complex. Data alone cannot solve for challenges that are ill defined and require multiple skills and disciplines to solve. Designing conversations so that people leave with a common understanding of the issues, a set of hypotheses to test, a research agenda, or other concrete guidance on which to act is critical to moving projects forward.
In the early stages of creative output, Pixar uses story boarding and sketches to rough out ideas. This technique works for outlining strategic possibilities as well. When an idea has taken some shape, then the prototype serves as a more detailed model to describe, refine, and test potential solutions.
Instead of taking a multiple-step approach, the reality is we often build the plane as we are flying it. If you are curious about learning to use conversation as a strategic tool, this book is rich with examples and very specific direction.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.