120 minute meeting–60 minute bladder

I have long preached that meetings need agendas and purposes far less than they need targets. What has to be achieved for this 30 minute gathering of eight persons  to be wildly successful?   I can now report that over 50 clients using this approach report that their average meeting time has been cut in half and that far more participants report that their meeting time was productive.  When I have dug in some surprises awaited me.  One is the difference between speaking in place vs. speaking to a destination.

In many meetings, a big problem is that participants say the same things repeatedly. The meeting is governed by ritual and personal viewpoint, not by the realities of a problem to be solved. Redundant comments can take 25% or more of meeting time I am told.

With a target—and a deft chair or facilitator– meetings move forward as comments build on each other as they must to achieve the result.     So we need to cut our waiting list for this vital service from four weeks to two weeks. Sorry, your comment on how bad government regulations are or how delayed our grant is are not relevant.  Who has an idea for something we can do to shave days off the time it takes to get people help?  Motion builds energy only when it is going somewhere.  Well done, you groups and people that allow no meeting to take place until someone can say what it is to achieve!

Wise words are often contradictory

It is hard to agree with “Absence makes  the heart grow fonder”  and also with  “Out of sight, out of mind.”  I came across another twosome of adages recently.  On the one hand, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” On the other, “What you see is what you get.    I often advise people to trust their first instincts.  Malcolm Gladwell’s wonderful short book Blink makes the points that persons steeped in experience can often look quickly at something and tell us what it is—a fake or a real  painting…a successful or unsuccessful organization.  They know just what to look for that predicts something important.

I tie this skill to advice I give organizations. First, get the most insightful people to give you their take and trust their judgement on anything important..  They do in a blink what you can’t do in a week.   Second, even if you can’t find an expert, take your best shot and move forward. You will learn more once in action than by dithering at the starting line.

Robert Cherry (known through a David Brooks column) has pushed me to a double take. He found in a study of hiring of ex-offenders in Minneapolis that only 6% of the ex-offenders were hired when their record was disclosed up front.  This city, however,  hired 60% of those with records when this news came in toward the end of the hiring process.

What can we make of this?  For me it is to pause before the quick decision to ask if we are looking in our assessment at factors that clearly predict the success we seek.     There may be good reasons to hire or not hire a person who has been incarcerated but using that factor  to predict job performance is not among them.  Forcing out our assumptions behind the decision is a great idea.

The lesson is less that you “can’t judge a book by its cover” than it is to separate those factors seen and heard early  that  have strong predictive value from those which do not.