Are Your Meetings Smart Meetings?

Just as a SMART phone does more than make phone calls, a SMART Meeting does more than start and end on time. SMART meetings:

  • Increase collaboration
  • Resolve critical business issues
  • Spark creativity
  • Spread collaboration
  • Improve continuously

The reason a SMART phone is able to do more than an ordinary phone is because it is designed that way from the beginning. If you only want to send and receive phone calls, you only need basic hardware and software. If you want to take pictures, surf the web, send text messages, get email, and make phone calls, you need more sophisticated hardware and software.

A SMART meeting has a purpose that is worthy of each participant’s time. It engages them in the work of the meeting because it is work worth doing. A leadership team became reenergized with their weekly staff meeting when they shifted its purpose from information updates to resolving important issues facing the organization. While weekly updates were useful, they did not provide a forum to engage the considerable talent in the room in addressing the issues that everyone knew needed to be addressed. As the group increased its ability to resolve critical business issues, the collaboration skills they practiced in the meeting began to spread throughout the organization.

SMART meetings are populated with people who have diverse points of view. Diverse thinking sets the stage for creative solutions to emerge. In order for this diversity to work, you need people in the meeting who bring more than diverse thinking to the table. They must be willing to influence and be influenceable. SMART meetings produce learning. Participants learn something new about other members of the team or about the organization as a result of participating in the meeting. This learning engages group members and as a result they find themselves more engaged. An organization shifted the way it conducted its Town Hall Meetings from one-way presentations by senior leadership to an interactive forum where participants could discuss issues with each other and the leadership. The result: 90% of the meeting’s participants rated the Town Halls time well spent.

SMART meetings are designed to build collaboration. A recent university “faculty” retreat involved more than faculty. It also included staff and administrators. While the retreat had the requisite number of keynote speakers, participants found learning and working together with people from different functions and departments to be the most valuable parts of the retreat. The relationships built at the retreat carried over into the day-to-day work of the university. They met and worked with people they had never seen before and as a result, their day-to-day work went more smoothly. This could never have occurred if only the faculty attended the retreat.

SMART meetings improve over time because they contain built-in feedback mechanisms. In far too many meetings, the meeting ends without a clear understanding of what was decided, the next steps, and a discussion of the meeting. Without an action plan that reviews what has been decided and identifies the next steps, meeting participants leave the meeting without a clear understanding of what they decided and where they are headed. They are left to grumble in the hall about the meeting. And while this grumbling may be cathartic, it does little to improve the meeting.

You need more than a review of decisions made and next steps for your meeting to become a SMART meeting. You need to review how the group worked together. Spending a few minutes at the end of your meeting discussing questions such as: “Was this meeting time well spent?” and “How can we make our next meeting better?” and “What contributed to our success today?” will make your meetings better over time. Engaging in this meeting review provides meeting participants with a sense of control over what is happening in their meeting and develops ownership for future meetings. In reflecting on a recent meeting, a group addressed the problem of people coming late and leaving early. They recognized that the starting and ending time of their meeting made it nearly impossible for people to arrive at the meeting on time as well as be on time for their next meeting. By changing the starting and ending time of their meeting, they resolved the problem of people coming late and leaving early.

A standard phone will never become a SMART phone without making significant changes to its hardware and software. Neither will your regular meeting become a SMART meeting if its purpose is not worthy of its participants, if it is not built to support collaboration and creativity, if it doesn’t address important business issues, and if it doesn’t improve over time. Sometimes all you need is a standard phone to get the job done. However, if you want results that only SMART meetings can produce, you must be ready to design your meetings with SMART outcomes in mind.

Posted in Meeting Strategies.