Managing Meetings

Planning Meetings

Every worker in an educational establishment will have some experience of meetings. Some spend only a small proportion of their time in meetings whilst for others they are a major part of their working schedule.

Despite all the meetings that take place every day in every large workplace, the majority of meetings will be poorly run and will not meet their objectives. The reason is bad planning. Bad planning in terms of:

  • Agenda setting
  • Keeping discussion on topic
  • Making decisions
  • Recording accurately what has been decided
  • Monitoring what should have happened since the previous meeting
  • Producing timely and accurate minutes

Haven’t We Met Before?

Many meetings seem as though they were planned by TV programme schedulers – they are simply a repeat of previous meetings with nothing new being contributed and with speakers simply saying what they have already said before.

This happens when the person chairing the meeting is not in control; or when the speaker has not undertaken a task that should have been completed since the last meeting and tries to hide it by reporting old actions; or when too many meetings discuss the same topic. This latter can lead to confusion over responsibility.

Where meetings are arranged at different levels, inviting someone to speak at a higher level after they have already said the same thing to a meeting shows lack of forethought, or trust, in the communications channels between levels.

Putting Names to Faces

There is a social aspect to meetings and that is an important point that should not be overlooked. Meetings are often the only place where some individuals get chance to meet and talk to each other, either formally or informally. Colleagues from different departments should be given opportunities to interact both informally as well as formally, as feelings of friendship and empathy generate care and bring incentives to help with, or contribute to, tasks that otherwise would be of little concern.

Lights, Camera, Action!

It is strongly recommended that minutes of meetings are ‘action-oriented’.

This means that where the meeting agrees something needs to be done then the minute of that item ends with the word “Action” in bold type, followed by the name of the person responsible for the task and a description of what was agreed be done.

eg Action: L Smith to carry out survey of equipment for anti-virus software installation.

It may be that L Smith will not carry out this work personally but that they are responsible for it being carried out. It may be that the people with the specialist knowledge to carry out the task may not be under L Smith’s line management and if this is the case it is vital that the meeting endows L Smith with some authority or sponsorship. The Process Review infoKit has more to say about Authority and Responsibility.