I was in one of those meetings this morning. I got tapped to be part of a task force for a pretty good-sized education non-profit, and today was my first meeting (and yes, there’s a reason I phrased that that way…).
Going into this meeting, I had no context for what was happening other than a vague idea of who else was involved and a reasonable idea of what the purpose & ultimate goals of the task force are.
The first thing I noticed is that this was not the group’s first meeting - it was for about half a dozen of us, but clearly a good portion of the people had already gotten together to start on things, and it was pretty clear later that more was happening later that we weren’t all invited to or in the loop about. There was no communication to the whole group about what was going on, what had already happened, no introductions so there are people who don’t know each other or what we’re all bringing to the table - we just jumped right in to "here’s what we’re doing today!"
The second thing I noticed as we got started is that the meeting was being facilitated by staff from everybody’s favorite gigantic CRM company. That to me is kind of a red flag, especially since we’re not talking about implementation at this point - it sends a message that we’re not building the best systems and processes for us, we’re building things to fit their product.
The third thing I noticed is that there were 20+ people on this meeting. If this was a "hey, here’s what’s going on, let’s meet everyone" kind of meeting, that would be fine. But no, we’re going to try and solicit meaningful feedback from 20 people who are seeing the thing we’re discussing for the first time within the span of an hour - not a good idea! That sends a message that we’re not here to actually do the work to figure out how to do things better, we’re here to tell our CRM vendor bits and pieces of what we do & how we work so that they can tell the higher-ups what the rest of us already know about how to make things work better.
This whole thing kind of begs the question - is the success of this project being measured by the outcomes & impact on the organization, or by the number of people-hours spent in meetings?
These kinds of meetings are exhausting - their unique combination of being boring and stressful at the same time is pretty taxing on most people. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Some sort of introductory meeting or at least an email would have been helpful to make sure we’re all on the same page & know everybody in the room.
Meaningful communication before the meeting about the scope of the meeting & an opportunity to review materials & discussion points ahead of time would have made things a lot smoother & enriched the discussion in the meeting.
If you want meaningful discussion to happen, you can’t do it with 20 people in the room. Split up into groups of no more than half a dozen people and bring what everyone discussed together at the end of the meeting - or pull it together & send out the information afterwards!
This level of discussion definitely could have been facilitated internally.
Communication is important. Meetings can be useful. But when we don’t give people the resources & information they need to be prepared & fully participate in a conversation or force everything to happen in synchronous large group meetings, we’ve removed value for both the individual participants and the group.