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More Output in Fewer Meetings:
A Tip Courtesy of Jonathan

You already know that because you are wise, experienced and successful it doesn't make meetings better. This quick note, prompted by my friend Jonathan, is about a practical structure that you can use that can dramatically shorten and improve your meetings: Success criteria.

Success Criteria
This comes from a technique that our firm uses to keep complex projects on target. I hate time wasting sessions, so we use this structure to get more value from less time in meetings. It's simple. It works.

We all use agendas, and what an agenda describes is the topic. This note is about much more. What I'm asking you to do is go further and to describe the outcome you want from your meeting. Before you start the meeting, answer a simple question: "When we are done in an hour, what will have changed?" The answer to that is your success criterion for that meeting.

The discipline is to have the success criteria in your mind before the meeting starts. Let me be clear: If you haven't defined success for the meeting before you start, you deserve to have a mediocre meeting. And you probably will. What I am asking you to do, what works, is to know how to define success around where you are going before you ask your team to sit down together.

TV or Conversation?
Let's consider two different kinds of meetings. One is where you want to disseminate information. This is like broadcast TV. You're the host, and they're the audience receiving information from you.

The second is a meeting where you are looking for buy-in. For that you want engagement, and the sense of dialog can help. Think of this as conversation mode, where you talk with the team, not at them, to generate acceptance of an idea.

For the broadcast meeting (TV mode) the success criteria are easy. It could be as simple as: "When we are done, I'll have told you about the quarterly numbers."

For the conversation (engagement mode) meeting your success criteria might be: "When we're done, you'll know next quarter's targets, and I'll ask you to commit to helping us all meet them."

Putting Success Criteria Into Your Meeting
To implement this success criteria strategy, schedule a meeting. Then ask yourself what you want to see changed by the end by the end of that meeting. For instance, do you want your team to have:

  • Learned something specific?
  • Bought into something?
  • Developed a solution that they can all support?
  • Told you something specific that you need to know?
Whatever the answer, make it measurable and then use it to fill in the blank: - When we are done here at 3 pm, __________ will have happened. Then tell the team as you open the meeting.

For a bit more effectiveness, put your success criteria on the whiteboard, and ask if everyone is OK with it. Wait for their answer.

You get even more effectiveness when, at the end of the meeting, you go back to what you wrote on the whiteboard and say: - When we started an hour ago, this was the target. Are you comfortable that we made it?

And wait for the answer.

This whole thing will feel incredibly clumsy the first time you do it. Then the second through fifth times, it will just feel kind of clumsy. But by the end of three to six cycles of this you'll love the results.

Next: Try it. If you like it, thank Jonathan.



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