Monday, July 13, 2015

Taking meetings -- other stuff

*** Other Literature ***

Now I have a stack of other stuff that may have some value. I'm going to start in no particular order and skim aggressively.

Seibold (1979). Making meetings more successful: plans, formats, and procedures for group problem-solving. Journal of Business Communication

It gives us an estimate that between 7 and 15 percent of personnel budgets are dedicated to meetings. Most important, the article gives us a list of tactics for group decision making:

  1. Problem census
  2. Rational reflection
    1. What is the problem?
    2. What are the causes?
    3. What the criteria for an adequate solution?
    4. What are the possible solution?
    5. What is the best solution?
    6. How shall the solution be implemented?
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Buzz groups
  5. Nominal group technique. Members work alone to create lists and then reconvene to share. Further individual work may be used to sort them, etc.
  6. Delphi
  7. Listening teams. Groups may be assigned to listen for particular things during a panel discussion or presentation (e.g., causes, etc.).
  8. Role playing
  9. Two-column method
  10. RISK. Participants are asked for input on particular challenges and risks of agreed-upon solution.
  11. PERT

Eilon (1968). Taxonomy of communications. Administrative Science Quarterly.

The author produces an interesting taxonomy of interactions that can be used to monitor interactions, resulting in cool charts that look like:

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to create a takeaway from this paper. We don't for example, get common patterns of communication, etc. It's a cool tool… but I don't how to apply it. Maybe somebody has figured it out in the last 50 years!

McCowan et al. (2002). Modeling human interaction in meetings. IDIAP Research Report.

I think that I have seen this thing before. Oh yeah. It didn't help me then either. Next!

Miranda & Bostrom (1999). Meeting facilitation: process versus content interventions. Journal of Management Information Systems.

Apparently process interventions are effective; content interventions are not… at least in terms of group support systems. The implications are, however, a bit mysterious.

Jorgensen (2010). Meetings that matter: conversational leadership in today's organizations. Reflections.

More numbers (without a source): professionals spend 25% of their time in meetings; department managers spend 40%; executives spend 80%. The article basically advocates for a systems thinking approach where people use a meeting with Fifth Discipline ideals. The basic approach is "conversational leadership," borrowing foundations from Malcolm Knowles's adult learning models, Deming's TQM ideas, Edward Schein's ideas of process consulting, Robert Greenleaf's servant-leadership model, and Senge's stuff.

In this model, the goal of a meeting is learning and outcomes include personal or team structure change; changes in thinking, acting, interacting; etc. Use FOCUS:
  • F -- follow the Five Guidelines for Learning Conversations
  • O -- open with Check-in and Context, Purpose, and Outcome (CPO)
  • C -- clarify each agenda item with CPO
  • U -- use Closing-the-Learning-Loop protocols
  • S -- support safe space

Check-in could include: "what is most pressing for you?" or "What did it take for you to come to this meeting?" Use the check-in to ground people and to show respect for what is going on with the participants. Ground people in what they are about to do.

The Five Guidelines for Learning Conversations include:
  1. Listen for Understanding. Listen openly and with respect. Listen to yourself.
  2. Speak from the Heart. Speak to contribute to the conversation, not to fill space or have your position heard.
  3. Suspend Judgement. Suspend any certainty that you are right.
  4. Hold Space for Differences. "Don't counter with 'but'"; contribute with 'and'."
  5. Slow down the Inquiry. Take time to digest.

  • Context -- how does today's meeting fit into larger ongoing efforts and vision
  • Purpose -- why are people meeting?
  • Outcome -- what can participants expect?

George's thoughts: Context should generally link back to an ongoing project, corporate objective, or business process; Purpose should be of the form: "[We need to] Develop a timeline for the xyz project"; Outcome should be of the form: "[At the end of the meeting, we'll have] Created a rough draft of the WBS."

Each item of conversation should really be brought through the discussion points of conversation, clarity, and confirmation.

Now, on to something a bit more academic:

Leach et al. (2009). Perceived meeting effectiveness: the role of design characteristics. Journal of Business Psychology.

This paper basically reports on two studies that involved asking people about what works -- and what doesn't -- within meetings. It involved a solid methodology and a decent n count. Best practices included the use of an agenda, minutes, punctuality, appropriate facilities, and the use of a chair or leader are important.

It seems that the use of (and completion of) an agenda, punctuality, and decent facilities are particularly important factors. Factors such as the meeting type, length, and the number of participants are non-factors for perceived effectiveness.

This article was actually quite interesting and has led to a variety of other citations for similar work.

McGlory (2000). Time well spent? Strategic finance.

Hmmm… not much new in this one.

Caruth and Caruth (2010). Three prongs to manage meetings. Industrial management.

Prepare. Control. Evaluate.

Barske (2009). Same token, different actions. Journal of Business Communication.

So this is all about the use of the phrase OK in German business meetings. Next.

Rogelberg et al. (2012). Wasted time and money in meetings: increasing return on investment. Small Group Research.

The title is good and apparently this comes from a special issue. The authors cite some numbers -- organizations devote between 7% and 15% of personnel budgets to meetings; in 1995 Xerox (with 25,000 employees) spent $100.4M on meetings. Other studies have demonstrated that 1/3 of time in meetings in considered unproductive and that 2/3 fail to meet their stated goals. The problem is a big one:

"Based on the authors' informal surveying of dozens of HR leaders in Fortune 500 rims, shockingly, organizations do little or nothing to assess the return on its investment or to take substantive steps to assure that investment is a good one."

The authors propose a three step process:
  1. Assess the organization's investment in meetings.
    1. Determine hours spent in meetings and combine the number with the encumbered salary costs.
  2. Assess return on meeting investment.
    1. Employees complete a survey on effectiveness and value of meetings.
    2. Observers can watch meetings for assessment.
    3. Determine a percentage for unnecessary and ineffective.
  3. Implement a change strategy. Important topics of consideration include:
    1. Productive and counterproductive leader and participant behaviors
    2. Meeting preparation and follow-through
    3. Meeting scheduling
    4. Appropriateness around number of meetings
    5. Existing and quality of training regarding meeting facilitation
    6. Satisfaction with quality and quantity of shared information
    7. Feedback regarding performance in meetings
    8. Decision-making approaches used in meetings
    9. Participant evaluation of others
    10. Leader evaluation of participants
    11. Participant evaluation of leaders

Evaluation could be built into performance reviews as specific skills or as  alignment with core values.

Best practice guidelines:
  • Amazon's "two pizzas" -- a meeting should not exceed the number of people that could be fed by two pizzas
  • Intel's posters -- each room is decorated with:
    • Do you know the purpose of the meeting?
    • Do you have an agenda?
    • Do you know your role?
Every Intel employee takes a course on effective meetings.

Allen et al. (2012). Employees' feelings about more meetings: an overt analysis and recommendations for improving meetings.

I wonder if this was actually published? It's another study that basically asks people how they feel about meetings. Not surprisingly, when those meetings have a clear objective and share relevant information, people enjoy them. Employees are unhappy with meetings if they constrain resources such as time. The study relies on Hobfoll's notion of Conservation of Resource (COR), that is "a stress model which suggests that people strive to retain, protect, and build resources and that a potential or actual loss of those values resources is a threat to their well-being."
Marshall et al. (2015). A new model for high value meetings.

Published? EUROMA? I'm not sure. But the authors do provide some UML diagrams… and they talk about the "E^2 model":

 The authors are chasing a concept they call ROIOT (Return on Investment of Time). And then we don’t really get much else.

Allen, Lehmann-Willenbrock, and Landowski (2014). Pre-meeting talk: the impact of pre-meeting communication on meeting effectiveness. Journal of Managerial Psychology.

People talk before meetings. It could be small talk, meeting preparatory talk, work talk, or shop talk. The authors did a study to explore the impact of these factors on overall meeting success. It seems that only small talk is associated with overall meeting success. This finding might be due to shared values, group cohesiveness, etc. Apparently small talk had better correlations than open communication, task-oriented focus, systematic approach, or the timeliness of the meeting. The finding is particularly relevant for individuals who aren't extroverted.

Standaert et al. (2015). An empirical study of the effectiveness of telepresence as a business meeting mode. Information technology management.

Apparently, telepresence is a bit better than audio- and video-conferencing but is no better than face-to-face. The article does, however, gives us a good list of "communication objectives":

In short, telepresence is better than audio- and video-conferencing for: building trust and relationships; communicating positive or negative feelings; giving or receiving feedback; clarifying concepts, issues, or ideas. Interestingly, audio-conferencing is best for "routine exchange of information." Perhaps this finding is an example of Conservation of Resources.

Allen et al. (2014). Understanding workplace meetings: a qualitative taxonomy of meeting purposes. Management Research Review.

Apparently the authors have developed a taxonomy for meeting purposes. This should be interesting.

These numbers could be averaged out based on the overall size of the economy to get some sense of overall economic contribution. I'm sure the Bureau of Economic Analysis would give us some numbers. Regardless, "routinely discuss the state of the business," "discuss quality, policy, and compliance," and "discuss on ongoing project" seem to be the most relevant.

Cohen et al. (2011). Meeting design characteristics and attendee perceptions of staff/team meeting quality.

Some more numbers on what makes a good meeting:
  • Punctuality
  • Appropriate space, refreshments, decent temperature and lighting
  • Formal agenda available ahead of meetings. A formal agenda not made available is not different from not having an agenda!
  • Smaller meetings are of higher quality
  • Use of a facilitator wasn't correlated with quality unless the meeting was large

Almost done. Here's the last one:

Stray et al. (2013). Obstacles to efficient daily meetings in agile development projects: a case study. ACM/IEEE International symposium on empirical software engineering and measurement.

Common challenges of agile meetings include:
  1. Meetings are too long (22 minutes vs. 15 minutes)
  2. Reporting to Scrum Master vs. equal sharing
  3. Meetings involved pre and post overhead
  4. Negative attitudes to meetings

The article also poses some potential solutions to these challenges that are primarily relevant for agile processes.


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