1) Buy Lunch
We in the software industry employ a very effective meeting which help a group of people sort through a lot of information and prioritize importance. Though these are called “requirements collaboration meetings,” I’ll describe them here (as paraphrased by a product manager I worked with), as they’re useful for any organization.
The meeting facilitar asks people to capture as many ideas and thoughts as possible on index cards. I suggest using Sharpies® and 4×6 cards, which you then read aloud and attach to a wall. That process surfaces the ideas to everyone.
Next the attendees collaborate and sort the cards into logical groupings – whatever makes sense to the people in the room. This further surfaces the ideas and gets people to think about them and how they might relate to the organization. The moderator keeps people from arguing with one another.
Next, give people a limited number of “votes” – like 3 or 5, depending on how much is on the wall – and tell them to place their votes on what they feel is most important. You can use colored sticky dots to register votes. Everyone walks around independently and puts dots on their cards.
The cards with the most dots are perceived by the group to be most critical. And then you need to be prepared to work on what the group has prioritized.
3) Don’t be Afraid to Red-Card
The most powerful words when moderating a group discussion you’ll ever need are “Let’s red-card that discussion.” Let’s face it: conversations can spiral out of control, and some people just talk too much.
The trick with red-carding is to do it judiciously. Let conversations run their course and people voice their views, but when they start to become unproductive, be prepared to step in. You can always offer to discuss the subject further, saying “it sounds like we could keep exploring this subject for a while. Let’s discuss it more offline.”
4) Use Mind Maps
Chief Justice Melville Fuller, according to a description by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips in their excellent book Contempt of Court, was a remarkable manager for the Supreme Court during his tenure.
He was the first chief justice to require the associate justices to shake hands with one another before intellectually duking it out in a “decisional conference.” According to the authors, he “also required that the justices remained cordial even in disagreement, forbidding cursing or yelling.”
So harness your inner Chief Justice Fuller and demand handshakes and cordiality so that politics, alliances, and emotion don’t hijack your meeting.
6) Regularly Schedule Start, Stop, Continue Meetings
A great way to incorporate new ideas into practice is with via a meeting popularized by Agile Project Management called the Retrospective, or “Start, Stop, and Continue” meeting. Every two weeks, our team at Rocket Matter gathers for 15-30 minutes and answers the following questions:
* What should we start doing that would help us?
* What’s not working that we should stop?
* What have we recently implemented that we should continue?