Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Nice To See You, To See You, Nice!

It wasn’t actually that long ago when many of us had regular get-togethers with colleagues from other parts of our organisation, often held in a central, off-site location. And no, we didn’t always enjoy these meetings that much: the journey could be tiresome, location uninspiring, agenda too full; the list of ‘groans’ is potentially endless. 
Yet, winding the clock forward to today, some of us may actually look back to those meetings with a degree of melancholy. As the age of the ‘Virtual Meeting’, combined with inevitable cost-cutting to survive one economic downturn after another, means that rather than getting together in person, we increasingly ‘meet’ in front of a screen. “Hello Singapore, can you hear us?”. No, I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of ‘virtual’ versus ‘real’ meetings here; I am sure all that can be said about that has no doubt found its way onto the Internet already.
What I do want to discuss is how we run meetings when, as seldom as it may be, we DO decide that meeting in person is the way to go. Let’s start by accepting the challenges (time, cost, location, access, diaries, etc.) haven’t really changed that much. If anything, these may have got worse. There is never an ideal time to do it, or place, cost is always an issue, and people will complain they don’t really (really don't?) have the time. What often happens in response to these issues is that a compromise is reached: let’s book a venue at or near a central airport, let’s have a programme from breakfast all the way through to 6 o’clock, and allow people to arrive late/ leave early if their flight time requires this.

Just read that again! Now consider the effort the organisation has made to get people together in the first place. You have spent a shed-load of money, you’ve made people travel for hours, you’ve upset schedules, I could go on. And yet, despite all of this, and in the face of the fact that these people may not actually meet again face to face for a long time, you decided it was right to cut corners, make compromises, pull together an unrealistic programme, and allow some (key?) people to miss part of the programme. Why? Just so your SVP Eastern Europe could be back home at midnight that day? Or so your Sales Director EMEA would have a full day in the office before travelling to the meeting, getting to your venue an hour after you all kicked off? I ask again: why?
Or let me ask it this way: given we have fewer and fewer of these potential moments of ‘quality time together’ (and I consciously inserted the word ‘potential’), shouldn’t we do all we can to make sure it makes the best possible use of everyone’s time? It really isn’t that hard:
Ensure people stay the night before and (especially in case of a one-day event) the night after your event. It costs little, yet means that everyone attends the sessions organised from start to finish, and – critically – means people have some informal time together, essential for a whole raft of reasons, not least helping the team spirit
  • Have a well thought through programme. This includes a realistic expectation of what can be achieved during the time available, a good ‘flow’, some scheduled ‘e-mail / phone call time’, a few proper breaks, and where at all possible, an external facilitator who ensures the day stays ‘on track’, helps summarise and minute 'what's next?'.
  • Get people to come prepared. Send each delegate one (1!) cleverly collated and manageable pack of pre-reading, and strongly encourage them to read it. This ensures that everyone has sufficient base level knowledge of the points discussed that day, allowing for a smooth running of the sessions and good use of time. Again, having one person in charge of this (rather than delegates receiving endless documents from various contributors) helps a great deal
  • Build in an activity. This can be an evening event, or even something as simple as a short walk after lunch. Something that helps build your team, that clears the mind, and makes people remember the event by. It can be the glue that pulls it all together. And ‘building a team’ doesn’t always require a typical, potentially exhaustive and expensive, team-build event. A round in a bowling alley or an hour of karaoke might just do the trick.
So please, when you next manage to get your team together, give it some (more) thought, and don’t give in easily to people’s moans and groans. It really isn’t that hard to do well, yet, its rewards are huge!

Ruud Jansen Venneboer
Managing Partner
Think the Unthinkable

No comments:

Post a Comment