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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Efficient meetings with blogs and wikis

3:57:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

We all know that many of the meetings that we attend at work are not very efficient. Sometimes no agenda is distributed in advance. Sometimes people who were not invited show up at the meeting. Other times the discussions get off the track. More often than not, the meeting time is exceeded. Consensus is not always achieved and neither is the desired result. All too often, actions are not identified and action plans not created or communicated. Afterwards, actions are forgotten and never carried out…

To make meetings efficient, you can come a long way just by following some basic ground rules on how to facilitate efficient meetings. Examples can be found here, here and here. If you feel that you need to some really drastic measures to get your meetings more efficient, why not try some of my radical ideas for efficient meetings?

Anyway, once you have established the groundwork for efficient meetings you can also make them even more efficient by using blogs and wikis. Say that you are managing a project and want to make your project meetings efficient. We assume that you have set up a project wiki and blog, and ensured that all project stakeholders and meeting participants have access to these tools. Then you can try this flow to make your meetings more efficient:

  1. When planning the meeting, create a page for the meeting in the project wiki. Edit the page and outline the agenda for the meeting. Add the basic structure of the meeting notes, such as a table with participants and roles and a table for your action plan.
  2. Invite all the people who you want to attend the meeting via e-mail. In the invitation e-mail, provide link to the meeting page in the wiki.
  3. Depending on what type of meeting you are facilitating, you might want to make an announcement about the meeting via the project blog so that all project stakeholders can become aware of it.
  4. During the meeting, appoint someone to document the discussions, decisions and actions identified during meeting directly in the wiki.
  5. After the meeting, write a post on the project blog that briefly summarizes the meeting. Provide a link to the page in the wiki and ask those who attended the meeting to review the meeting notes and add anything that is missing or correct mistakes. Also ask them to update the status of their actions once they carry them out.

So, how does this flow help you make your meeting more efficient? Here is how:

  • You don’t have to provide information such as the agenda in the mail or in an attachment that might disappear in the inbox. It is available at one single location, in one copy only. The most recent version is always the one presented to you.
  • By putting the agenda in the wiki, anyone can edit it before the meeting takes place. They probably won't, but they might add comments to the page and this is something you should encourage. They might give you feedback on the agenda, tell you what is missing, issues that you should address, or any other kind of feedback. This gives you a chance to prepare the meeting in a better way.
  • If you have missed to invite someone in your e-mail invitation who should attend, that person can read about the meeting on the blog and thus get a chance to contact you to get invited to the meeting.
  • You don’t have to worry about participants or other stakeholder not finding meeting notes. Meeting notes will not be buried in e-mail inboxes or in documents on file servers that cannot be easily searched. The participants can easily search for the meeting notes in the wiki or navigate to them via the blog post.
  • The participants can correct any mistakes or add things to the meeting notes that are missing. The facilitator does not need to collect, identify and merge changes from several copies of the meeting notes documents into the one single meeting notes document.
  • Feedback is provided in public, so it is less likely that several people will provice the same feedback.
  • Valuable discussions might arise on the blog or the wiki in the tail of the meeting. Anyone can follow the complete discussion threads and the discussions are captured and possible to find by anyone with access at any point in time. That is not the case with discussions via e-mail.
  • Actions are visible to everyone who has access to the project wiki. The sense that anyone can follow up on the status of actions might make participants more motivated to carry out their actions and report the status of their actions. Especially if they know that others are subscribing to any updates to the wiki page via RSS or e-mail notifications. For the doer, this is a way to show off. If there are no updates for actions, that indicates that someone is not doing what he’s supposed to - and you (or someone else) can easily find out who that someone is.

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