‘You won’t be able to see it until you really get it’

… Johan Cruijff once said. This is certainly true in the case of effective meetings and fact based decision making. Many people within an organisation often feel the same about the ineffectiveness of the meetings they attend, but little or nothing is done about it; that’s just the way things are done here… I recently spoke with someone who told me that he has to sit through 38 hours of meetings every week. So sharing ideas with colleagues, working on issues and responding to emails all have to be fitted in at the end of the day. Before he knew it he has worked another 70-hour week.

It takes a little time, and then it really is a pleasure to see how everybody enjoys meeting ‘new style’. Realising this transition within a team is the reason that I enjoy implementing a Management Control & Reporting System as much as I do.

  • Attending meetings becomes a pleasure once more
  • Results really are achieved now
  • The working atmosphere improves
  • Decisions are made on the basis of facts
  • Personal contributions are valued
  • Everyone is actively involved
  • People leave the meeting with more energy than when they went in

You’ll only really be able to see it once you’ve got it

I am currently engaged on a challenging project with one of our clients, which is aimed at achieving more effective decision-making. The recently designed Management Control and Reporting System aims to guide and coach chairmen on how to hold effective meetings and how to design a suite of KPIs which support fact based decision making. Just like in all projects involving change, there are managers who embrace the changes and managers who are under too much pressure with meetings and are unable to free up any time for making changes.

The first group is relatively easy because ultimately they can see that it addresses an uncomfortable feeling that they have had for a long time. The group that are too busy with meetings and don’t believe that they have time to make changes are really interesting to work with. However, in the first instance I don’t invest very much energy in this second group. I have observed that it is more effective to get to work first with the people who are actually keen to do so.

The most interesting of them all is the large group in the middle, (also known as the ‘early and late majority’). The challenge is to get the managers from this middle group to perceive for themselves that the work becomes easier and that meetings suddenly deliver a great deal more in a great deal less time. This is where I invest the greatest amount of coaching and guidance. Once this middle group has also been ‘won over’ and embraces the new way of holding meetings it is relatively simple to convince the reluctant group as well.

What improvements can you expect after establishing a good Management Control and Reporting System?

  • More effective meetings that are shorter and less frequent;
  • Better prioritisation and focus on the issues with the greatest impact;
  • Decision-making based on facts (based on accurate data and KPIs);
  • Root cause problem solving;
  • Increased compliance with decisions made and increased involvement among members.

Research demonstrates that…

… In the case of a weekly frequency of meetings people generally need approximately 13 weeks to make something new into a standard habit. Weekly coaching during this period can accelerate this process. In particular, this coaching helps the chairman to make sure that people continue to uphold the new behaviour that needs to be learned. Above all the chairman has to learn how decisions, which used to be taken on the basis of opinions, may now only be taken on the basis of facts.

In addition, making SMART actions and decisions explicit, and documenting this transparently, is often a challenge for the chairman. Using a beamer or TV screen for keeping the standard list of action, decisions and statements works well in this case.

And naturally the chairman has to ensure that the entire group are responsible for the agreed rules of conduct so that he does not have to constantly act as a policeman and correct people. Get the members to help you with this! From now on the meeting has a clear objective and scope, and is the whole team’s responsibility.

Sustainable change comes from within

For this reason, it is important to reward ‘best practices’, like a good action list or clear KPIs that are already in use within the organisation, and to reuse them transparently throughout the rest of the business.

Being able to convert an organisation where meetings are lifeless and decisions are made on the basis of opinions into an organisation with energy, where results and clear agreements can be achieved in the meetings, is something that I find enormously rewarding. I really enjoy seeing how much the chairman appreciates that the new structure works, and that he can suddenly achieve far greater impact in much less time. The frequency and duration of meetings reduces dramatically and suddenly there is time to be present on the work-floor and to join the family around the table in the evening.

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