How to make discussions more effective?

We have done a company-wide analysis of ”top execution issues”. As expected random discussions and classes have topped the list and is one of the WIGs for us to fix (Wildly Important Goals). We had rules for discussions but it was never followed properly.

The discussions which are not very helpful kind:

  • You have a problem and you call everyone to discuss it: None has thought about the problem and the solution, all of a sudden you have people who are discussing about random solutions to a not-very-well-thought or understood problem. It wastes everyone’s time.
  • You want to teach someone something but you are not prepared with the goals, worksheets, follow up, documents etc. You have not spent enough time in drafting the class and cross checking the class with someone.
  • You find a problem and rush to someone senior or smarter for solution. The other person has been working on something else; you suddenly interrupt the person and that too when the person is not ready to answer your question. Also there are people who don’t want to solve problem they just want to pass the problem and get the solution kind (Very tough breed for growth).
  • 2 to 4 people sitting together to create one document. It’s a waste as your productivity and thought process is reduced to very low level as you are interrupted by others. You are not thinking independently, you are not bringing any new dimension to the table.

How to take care of it? How it more effective? First of all, we defined what discussions are and what is presentation? 

Discussion: If 2 or more people are aware of the problem and ready with some solutions then it can be a discussion. Example: If we ask to prepare the project life cycle for an SEO project, if 2 people are sitting together and preparing it, its not a discussion. It is a waste. What we do is, we ask both to prepare separately, it takes the same or less time. Then they come together and club it to one. You will always find new dimension in such discussions.   Presentation: You are doing something, you are solving something, you need opinion (when others are not prepared at all). You come and tell them the problem and what you have done. Others ask questions and add few points here and there. You are in control. You don’t expect others to solve the problem right then, you expect others to understand and add some quick points (using their past knowledge). If you need discussion, after presentation have the discussion after few hours/days.

How to make it effective?

  • Give the problem statement/purpose/goal in an email with details and documents so that people are well prepared. Schedule the meeting after a day or so.
  • People who are not going to contribute or getting help should be avoided from the class (I have done that many times and people hated me for showing that partiality)
  • When people come, recap the problem/goal and ask each one for the solution. Take all the solutions and see if it suits, if not, just discuss about it and give it another day to solve it.
  • Have a fix time for meetings like 4 o’clock in the evening, so your mind is prepared for such meetings, don’t have meetings around 11 or 12 o’clock in the day. Only emergency meetings can be called at non meeting hours. 4 to 5 PM can be meeting hours. (The least productive hours according to me).
  • For classes please read the other post

  Also for most discussions have a way to see if that was useful. We have hash tag #waste for the discussions that are wasting time, in that way we come to know about the waste meetings that are happening. We add #hash tags in our PMS.


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