Study after study confirms a recurring theme:
A lot of people in business believe a lot of business meetings are a waste of their time.
A recent example: A survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing services firm, asked 150 senior executives from the nation’s 1,000 largest companies “What percentage of meetings do you feel are unnecessary?” The average response: 28 percent.
“Businesses are operating with lean teams, which implies more people are stretched for time,” Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, explains in a news release. “Sometimes meetings outlive their original purpose, so professionals should carefully consider whether one is warranted or if there’s a more efficient way to share the information.”
We agree. As providers of conferencing and collaboration services and solutions, we have argued many times in this blog that business people should think before they meet. Moreover, we believe thinking about the way you think is an excellent method for ensuring all your interactions are efficient and effective through any mode of business communication – voice, visual, virtual or some mix of all three.
So, when Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking hit book stores this summer, we took notice, featuring the work by best-selling author Matthew E. May in our post “7 Books to Hone Transformative Leadership Skills.”
Early in Brain Game, May explains that one or more of the “7 fatal flaws” typically prevents business thinkers from reaching what he calls an “elegant solution” – i.e., “one that achieves the maximum effect with minimum means.”
We see a similar problem in business communications. One or more of what we’ll label “fatal obstacles” often hinders colleagues, customers and partners in their pursuit of what we’ll dub “elegant collaboration” – i.e., interacting in the best possible manner with the least waste to accomplish an intended purpose and/or produce an exact result.
We suspect our fatal obstacles to collaboration are the reason so many business people believe so many meetings are unnecessary. To illuminate our thinking, let’s draw some parallels between thinking flaws and collaboration obstacles:
Thinking Flaw #1: Leaping
When a team of business thinkers starts developing solutions before devoting any time to considering the problem at hand.
Collaboration Obstacle #1: Jumping
When a team leader calls a meeting of one or more team members without stating a purpose and providing an agenda. And/or when one or more team members agrees to attend a meeting without asking the purpose and requesting an agenda.
Thinking Flaw #2: Fixation
When a business team addresses new challenges with old ways of thinking
Collaboration Obstacle #2: Grinding
When a business team approaches every meeting for any purpose with the same format without adjusting for conditions (e.g., time of day, in person, online, etc.), participants (e.g., staff, clients, cross-functional team, etc.) subject matter (e.g., financial reporting, project planning, feedback session, etc.) or other varying circumstances.
Thinking Flaw #3: Overthinking
When a team of problem-solvers ignores the constraints of a situation, raising issues for consideration that complicate rather than clarify matters.
Collaboration Obstacle #3: Packing
When a meeting leader issues an agenda with too many topics to cover in the time available. And/or when one or more meeting participants introduces items or issues for discussion unrelated or tangential to the agenda.
Thinking Flaw #4: Satisficing
When a business team settles for a solution that is good enough rather than exerting the effort necessary to resolve a problem completely.
Collaboration Obstacle #4: Bolting
When a meeting leader ends a session without taking time to review conclusions and discuss next steps. And/or when participants leave a meeting without a clear understanding of their responsibilities following the session.
Thinking Flaw #5: Downgrading
When business leaders revise goals and objectives downward or backward to claim success or progress in less time and/or with commitment of fewer resources.
Collaboration Obstacle #5: Trimming
When one or more team members opens a meeting by announcing a lesser commitment to preparation or discussion than appropriate or previously agreed.
Thinking Flaw #6: Not Invented Here (NIH)
When business thinkers show an automatic negative perception of, and visceral aversion to, concepts and solutions developed somewhere else, somewhere external to the individual or team.
Collaboration Obstacle #6: Hijacking
When one or more participants ignore an established meeting purpose and agenda and then use session time to address their own purposes or agendas.
Thinking Flaw #7: Self-Censoring
When one or more members of a business team rejects, denies, stifles, squelches, strikes, silences and otherwise withholds their own ideas from discussion or consideration without first consulting other team members.
Collaboration Obstacle #7: Self-Muting
When one or more participants in a meeting rejects, denies, stifles, squelches, strikes, silences and otherwise withholds their own ideas from discussion or consideration when given the opportunity within the agenda to share with other participants.
Of course, there are many nuances and variations to each of the flaws and obstacles named above. That’s why we’ll explore each pair in a series of future posts, along with the best fixes in each case. Stay tuned.