Friday, December 31, 2010

What's in Your Management Planning Meeting?

Did you meet all your expected business outcomes in 2010? Were you "promise keepers" that made "raving fans" of your clients other stakeholders? If not, perhaps one agenda item for 01/01/2011 should be a review of your management planning meetings. How are they conducted? What is the agenda? What are the desired outcomes? Are these status and "look back" meetings? Or forward looking planning meetings?

Let's take a quick look at the words and see what they tell us about what the meeting should be. We've all heard the quote about management being about doing things right (vs. leadership as doing the right things). Is there an emphasis in your meeting about doing things right? Planning implies a forward look at the business outcomes and the resources, time lines, and budgets which will be applied to achieve them. These definitions set the stage for consideration of how your management planning meeting might be reshaped. As Stephen Covey says in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Begin with the end in mind." The meeting purpose (Management Planning) should determine the focus and the agenda.

Status and "look back" are important. Where you have been should at least have some consideration in where you are going next. But status and look back shouldn't consume the entire meeting. I can't say I can tell you a percentage, however one way of reducing this to zero is by having short (no more than a half page) written status reports that are shared with your Board or other senior leader colleagues in advance of the planning meeting. The status updates should be shared at least a day or two before the planning meeting so issues can be considered while forming forward looking strategies.

That allows the management planning meeting to have a forward looking agenda. It would be appropriate for each department to state the objectives and outcomes they plan to meet in the coming week(s). Special emphasis should be given to collaborative or cooperative needs. That gives everyone a chance to have a voice and discuss any resourcing or budgeting issues which may arise. There is not just a focus on planning, but on problem solving.

The other important ingredient of your Management Planning Meeting is that all the required participants be present. This should be set aside as a sacred time so that critical decision makers and those required to solve problems will be present. If everyone cannot be there, then in most cases the meeting should be postponed to avoid improperly considered decisions. Not finding a time when this is possible? Then the agenda of your first planning meeting in 2011 should be to solve the problem of making this possible.

Don't be shy about providing meeting pre-work. Pre-work isn't about passing out the PowerPoints so that the meeting just rehashes them. Its about providing background documentation and information for the decisions that must be made and the problems to solve. This will help participants to be prepared to more effectively meet the goals of the meeting.

During the meeting, a volunteer or appointed scribe should take notes on the actions and outcomes agreed to. A five minute debrief will allow the scribe to read back the notes and actions for accuracy. The meeting should close with a quick check on the meeting progress and what, if anything, should be modified to make the next meeting more effective.

Your effective use of meeting time will build enthusiasm and commitment -- two of the essential ingredients of building a high performing team. The well planned and faciliated meeting promotes better follow up and follow through, and set the stage for the meeting results needed to improve execution and ability to meet the planned outcomes. Well planned and implemented meetings will yield achievable and predicatable results going forward. Isn't this, after all, what you really set out to accomplish?

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