I explained yesterday that ‘team = meeting’ is a cancer in organizations. We have fallen into the trap of making the terms synonymous by default. The activity and vehicle (the meeting) has taken over the working together or teaming up. In fact, teaming up is a verb, the act of collaboration and joining forces. The team is the structure, the meeting a vehicle.
These are 7 rules:
- Make your teams operate in 365-day, ‘continuous meeting’ mode and declare the formal team meeting a secondary activity that takes place only when needed. Invert the equation: the meeting should be the anomaly.
- 75% or more of the decisions that a team needs to make, don’t need a formal meeting of all the team’s members. Establish the rule that people who are empowered to make a decision, should make it in real time without needing to wait for a formal slot on the agenda of the next ‘team meeting’.
- Most of the routine sharing of information and ongoing tracking of progress in any project can be done online by using a simple (or complex) electronic tool. Shared drives on your server are an obvious (old-fashioned) way of having a single repository of information. Your firm may be a bit more sophisticated these days and have some sort of document management system or ‘e-room’ where teams can store documentation including minutes.
- In team 365, the project leader is also a ‘project leader 365’, not just the information traffic warden pre, during and post-meeting. Project leaders facilitate continuous discussion and the working together of members, whether in duos, trios or bigger groups. If people need to collaborate, they’ll do it any time, not just at the meeting. If decisions need to be made, they can be made at any time, not just at the meeting. All will be transparent and posted in a common repository. The project leader takes care of the continuous flow of information.
- People sometimes use a catchphrase in meetings to express that something doesn’t belong in the meeting; that it deserves to be dealt with outside the meeting, perhaps because it is complex. In jargon, that translates into: “we will discuss this off-line”. Now think of the team as permanently ‘off-line’. And the more things can be dealt with ‘off-line’, the less need there is for the meeting. So, ask yourself and your colleagues the magic question: “do we really need a meeting for this?” You will be amazed how many times the answer is, “not really…”
- Can you still have any team meetings at all? Yes, but not as we know them. Meet with colleagues to explore and increase the social understanding of the behavioural fabric of the team. Talk processes and behaviours. Talk strategy. Celebrate successes. Debate when an issue requires a face-to-face (or virtual face-to-face). The meeting now primarily has a social goal. Period.
- Team membership is team membership. There is no such thing as ‘core members’ and ‘extended members’. If you need to call upon people’s expertise from time to time, that doesn’t make them ‘extended team members’. They are people occasionally called upon. Most of the ‘extended members’ are often intellectual tourists or ambassadors. Many of them would be pleased to be de-listed as members and relieved from presenteism duties (and if they’re not, you may wonder how busy or needed they really are in their day jobs).