Posts Tagged meetings
Note: This guest post by Richard Egan has a focus on education but the principles covered can easily be translated into other settings. Collaborative tools like MindMeister are powerful ways to bring people and their ideas together.
Online collaboration has become very popular in both education and business. We now have the ability to easily and freely share all file types using different cloud based platforms. People working collectively on a project or assignment no longer need to be in the same room or even in the same country for that matter.
Collaborative platforms have enabled educators to create online learning environments where students can benefit from sharing ideas and communicating with each other, their mentors and external organizations.
Mind Mapping and Online Collaboration
Mind maps are an excellent method for individuals to graphically represent and structure ideas or thoughts. It is a very valuable tool which can be used for project management, creating to-do lists, idea generation, planning articles or papers.
Mind mapping can be implemented for collaborating and brainstorming, it gives students a platform to work simultaneously and a facility for learning together. Introducing mind mapping to students is a great way to encourage group participation and when managed properly will generate great results.
Benefits of Collaborative Tools:
- Easier project management
- More informed decision making
- Promotes critical thinking
- Meetings and brainstorming sessions conducted remotely
- Develop new skills for a business environment
- Files stored in one place i.e. no waiting for a document to be emailed
- Improved communication between students, lecturers and research groups
Collaboration: Mind Mapping Uses
Using mind mapping for collaboration presents students with the opportunity to share ideas with peers and to think creatively through social inspiration. I have made a list of some of the situations where mind mapping can be used as a solution for online collaboration.
- Managing group projects
- Class assignments
- Sharing lecture notes
- Brainstorming sessions
- Study sessions
- Group presentations
The video below is an example of multiple users collaborating on one map – they are creating an IKEA shopping list for their office. All changes to the mind map can be seen in real-time by all collaborators
Mind Mapping Example: Project Management
The next time you are assigned a group project in school or college I would encourage you to use a mind map from the beginning. To get started you can follow these easy steps:
- Create a mind map with title of project
- Invite all teams members to be collaborators
- Have a brainstorming session with all collaborators
At this point you should have a map with many topics, ideas and tasks to be completed. The next step is to appoint a team leader who can:
- Sort and structure all the information in the map
- Delegate tasks, create deadlines and set reminders for each member
Once this has been completed you will have very quickly created a project plan and a great starting point for the project. In addition to this, create another mind map with all details of each team member i.e. contact details, to-do lists and daily schedules; it can then be linked to the main map. The purpose for this is that everyone can see what the other is doing, progress can be monitored and meetings can be easily scheduled to suit everyone.
Some of the mind mapping software providers also support smartphones and tablets meaning that members can literally participate whenever or wherever they may be!
Online collaboration is becoming ever more important and is being used by businesses all over the world to increase productivity and creativity. Following the principle that two brains are better than one many companies are taking advantage of new software being made available to them. Collaborating online has many benefits in education but it is also very important that students are prepared for such working environments after their studies.
New online collaborative tools are emerging every day with numerous platforms for saving and sharing files, conducting meetings and managing projects. Mind mapping is one such tool but with a bit of a difference, it is a visual tool. Not only can files be stored and shared on the cloud but you can also see and watch how the whole thought process evolved and how a conclusion was formed or how a plan was made. And because each collaborator can add to a mind map simultaneously no one person can dominate the direction or outcome!
- Improving Academic Performance with Mind Mapping (hbculifestyle.com)
- Mind Mapping Workshop (slideshare.net)
- How Mind Maps Can Help Organize and Create Content (contently.com)
Have you ever just stopped and thought, “OK, exactly, what am I doing here?” Have you ever been asked to explain something and found yourself ramblings and your thoughts came out incoherent and and your thoughts are without any cohesion and almost on the verge of being labeled ‘verbal diarrhea’? (run on sentence intended for effect folks!!)
Force Some Discipline
There is a way you can attack this problem. This idea comes from a book I’ve recently read call “Drive” by Daniel Pink. (Good Read! Recommend it!) It’s one of the suggestions in the back of the book which you could easily overlook and just skiip by if you are not careful.
The concept is simple. Use a tool, like Twitter, to force you to craft a message in 140 characters. Twitter will only publish 140 characters of a person’s tweet. It provides a nice clean interface with a gentile reminder of how many characters you have remaining. It also provides you a negative number if you go over 140 characters, thus showing you how much you have to trim to have your entire message included in the twitter stream. Twitter simply provides us a clean and straightforward page with the needed feedback to accomplish this task.
Twitter is not the focus
You could use any tool that gives you the feedback to understand how close you are to 140 characters. Even the 140 characters are arbitrary and simply based on the fact that Twitter has this limitation. I could also use any word processor that provide the basic functionality of ‘word count‘ . You could write a simple Visual Basic program in minutes to perform the same task. The tool is not the important factor here. It is your ability to boil down your message to 140 charaters.
In the past we’ve talked about using elevator speeches, but this is more intense and to the point. Only using 140 characters to create focus.
Twitter Summary Application
- Front Office Staff – image the value you would bring if your responses were pithy and to the point. How many of us have wished we met some of these staff in our travels. Only to find out 2 minutes into a question answer session you picked the wrong person to ask ‘where the bathroom was?’ (exaggeration intended)
- Meeting Prep – Wouldn’t we all like to come into a meeting and with a short burst from the moderator / facilitator know how much I need to pay attention? In fact, I could then text my assistent to pull me out of the meeting in let’s say 10 minutes. (Note to self: I bet I could write a quick program so that when I text mesage a certain code to it, it would then rendomly generate a ’emergency text message‘ to my department member’s phones so I can get them all the hell out of there before they waste another minute not doing their jobs!) (exaggeration intended)
- Event Planning – When I plan out an event, each hour has something it needs to accomplish. I would suggest having a twitter summary for each hour so that each hour can be easily reviewed by the facilitation staff and the owner / sponsor of the event.
- Calendar Management – wouldn’t we all like to look at a calendar event and not ask the question – what in the world is this here for and who authorized it to be on my calendar? Well a twitter summary would help there also.
- Instructions to Staff – I’ve also heard this one called ‘commander’s intent‘ as well. It would be a short burst stating what is the ultimate outcome or goal is for an activity. Sometimes these are needed so that if something goes wrong, the team, using autonomy, can make adjustments to still hit the mark by the end of the assignment.
- Classroom Setting – excellent use of a few seconds to start out the class. Let everyone know what’s going to happen in the class for the next hour to three hours. (Also see Meeting Prep above – for you resourceful students – but don’t try it in my class – I have you turn off your phones)
Taken to an Extreme
Would love to hear how you could apply Twitter Summaries. Leave a post and let me know.
- The art of complaining in 140 characters or less (swiss-miss.com)
- On the benefits of #macroblogging, observing a #Twitter stupidity, and the return of #stopshortening (dropsafe.crypticide.com)
- Don’t spend hours tweeting, says Twitter co-founder (telegraph.co.uk)
- How Twitter Can Improve Your Management In 140 Characters Or Less (businessinsider.com)
- Tell us about ‘the moment’ in 140 characters or fewer (timesunion.com)
How many times do you find yourself in a slump. We need to shake off the old and create a new way of generating new ideas. We need to make some magic, create some sparks, razzle and dazzle, have some fun! When I read this post from Seth Godin it got me to thinking:
An end of magic
Arthur C. Clarke told us, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Head back to the 1800s with a Taser or a Prius or an iPad and the townsfolk will no doubt either burn you at the stake or worship you.
So many doors have been opened by technology in the last twenty years that the word “sufficiently” is being stretched. If it happens on a screen (Google automatically guessing what I want next, a social network knowing who my friends are before I tell them) we just assume it’s technology at work. Hard to even imagine magic here.
How to Make the Magic
This is a fun exercise to take your team or department through. You can read about the process in one my previous posts “Exceptionalism: Focus on the Never“. But basically, take several idea lists you’ve created and follow the “Innovation Bonus Exercise” in the above post. Then take some of those ideas and create you own little science fiction episode of “Stargete”, “Sanctuary”, or “Startrek” in which your team runs accross a civilazation with advanced technology like some of the crazy items on your list and they now have to revewrse engenere it to gain the benefits of the new found technology.
You might be surprised how many of the way-out-there crazy ideas turn into actionable realistic projects for your team to investigate further.
It’s a fun off-site day, especially if you have a bunch of techie scifi geeks on your team!
When I hear in meetings that people don’t know why they are doing something or why a certain policy is in place I begin to wonder how much time is wasted on things we are just doing because we’ve always done them that way. This post was triggered after reading “I can’t believe we’re still doing that” which brought back a lot of memories about team meetings that I facilitated and the frustration I had because there was such a resistance to change when confronting obsolete work. Now I want to admit that I thought I had posted on this exercise in the past but after searching my archive I didn’t find it referenced. Sorry about that.
Setting the Stage
This exercise is great when change occurs naturally in the workplace. It does not need to be forced. But I must admit, when I am called in as an outsider to facilitate change meetings it is very natural for me to use this tool. If you are managing a team or organizations, there are still may opportunities to use this tool:
- New Leadership – often a great time to realign your department or team when a new leader is ready to add a new twist or their own perspective to the role of the organization.
- New Management – this is a great time to review ‘why’ we do things. There are times when the past choices are allowed to be questioned as to why we are doing something.
- Direction Change – often with new management or leadership comes a direction change and a time to evaluate past traditional work and possibly make changes.
- New Team Member – sometimes a new set of eyes brings a new perspective. And remember, those new team members have past experiences for you to gain from as well.
- New Competitor – nothing can be more jarring than a new threat in the vicinity. This change is ideal to reevaluate what the team is doing and make some needed changes.
- New Capability – learning something new is a great time to make changes. Sometimes it’s as simple as learning a new lens or gaining new tools or skills that allow you to reevaluate past norms.
- Measurement Changes – remember always “you are what you measure” and at times those measurements tell you that something is wrong or something unexpectedly went well. This is a great time to pull the team together and analyze the outlier.
Pick your change. For the most part any change that occurs in your normal business cycle becomes an opportunity to evaluate your norms and possibly make some changes. My only word of advice is that you don’t use “Start, Stop, Continue” too much.
You will need three surfaces, I tend to use three large tear off sheets taped to a wall, with each one title with one of there topics: START, STOP, and CONTINUE. You will need sticky notes and writing materials, and sticky dots handed out to each person attending the meeting.
You will provide the participants a problem to solve in which they must come up with ideas on how to improve something by stating things they would START, STOP, or CONTINUE doing. Here are some suggestions for problems to solve:
- How can we make this department better?
- How can we reduced the total elapsed time of a specific process?
- How can we reduce the duration of a specific task?
- How can we improve the customer experience?
- How can we reduce the returned product / restocking percentages?
- How can we decrease the Account Receivable averages and improve cash flow?
Have the team write their ideas on the sticky notes and place it on the correct START, STOP, or CONTINUE sheet.
Facilitation Tip: This brainstorming session is sometimes best SILENT. As a general rule if there is a superior in rank or position in the room and someone may try to “impress the boss” by controlling the session, or an (opinionated) person who naturally commands all the discussions, then make this part of the exercise “SILENT ONLY” and limit the damage.
If the STOP page seems sparse after the activity is underway, then stop the team and force them to evaluate that specific area alone.
Facilitation Tip: If you have a process map already created for a specific process you are asking the team to improve then make sure the process is visible somewhere in the meeting room. If you don’t have the process thoroughly mapped out then begin first by mapping the process into a swim-lane chart so everyone can understand what they are being asked to improve.
Group and Rank Suggestions
Have the team go through a nominal grouping exercise where they attached similar ideas together. Allow the tam to challenge each other. If an idea seems to fall into two groups then create a second sticky note and have the team move on with other groupings. Then identify any associations between the grouped items (i.e. Item 2 can’t be started or completed without Item 1 having been accomplished first).
Then have the team vote on which items they think are best. Give each person 5 or 10 sticky dots. They can place dots on any of the grouped items. They can place multiple dots on any one group if they feel strongly that a specific items needs more attention. (Don’t let them place all their dots on one item though).
This will produce a list of items the group either believes are low hanging fruit or very important and need to be addressed.
We are looking for
- Obsolete Steps
- Eliminate Points of Failure
- Reduce Inter-Departmental Hand-offs
- Reduce Elapsed Times
- New tasks in an existing process
- New processes
- Purchase new software / tools
- New classes to educate staff
- New Hire orientation updated lists
- All existing items not found on the STOP / START sheets that the team is already performing.
I hope you enjoy this exercise. Let me know how it went.
One of my favorite tools for team collaboration and idea collection is MindMeister. I use it for organizing my thoughts on large blog posts (see Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle and Mind Map: The iPad Battle), helping my boys organize their thoughts for their school writing assignments, and many more instances. Because it can update the mind map in real time with many users signed into the map simultaneously, I have found it to be valuable when working on conference calls while trying to keep the team focused and not hindering the collection of tangent ideas in the middle of a thought stream that is being debated.
MindMeister 4.7 has been announced with some improved features:
- drag and drop attachments and images directly from their desktop to a selected node
- Google API used to view attached files rather then requiring you to download them
- a new social sidebar
- Auto Condensing of maps
- iCalendar task feed has been updated
- Team Edition will now find custom branding options
Check out MindMeister, I think it will help you organize your thoughts and projects.
- Mindmapping for Medical Students (slideshare.net)
- MindMeister for iPad Now Available (magicaltablet.com)
- 15 Creative Brainstorming Tools For Free (madrasgeek.com)
- Mind Mapping is a Great Way to Brainstorm (gcsagents.com)
As a consultant I am asked to facilitate critical meetings and/or evaluate meeting or facilitator performances. I have yet run across an organization that lives for meetings. No company believes if they could only have one more meeting then they would reach the pinnacle of their business existence. It reminds me of a common story a life-coach might offer his client reminding the client of the concept of work-life balance. A man is on his deathbed and wishes for one last day at work so he will be satisfied and complete.
I do run across organizations that hold mandatory and regularly scheduled meetings because … well … because that is what they think all organizations are suppose to do. (They should but not for that reason.) The meetings are scheduled and placed on everyone’s calendars. Some even go so far as to create performance review metrics concerning attendance, timeliness, and participation for the above mentioned meetings. Literally, the same agenda is passed around at each meeting, with the same ground rules clearly identified somewhere on the page. I’m not anti-meeting when I say this, but, what a waste. A waste of time and resources for the company.
Meetings Must Accomplish Something
A meeting must have value and that value is determined by the behavioral change your department or organization sees based on the content and outcomes of the meeting. Leadership or management should set goals and objects for these meetings in the same way they w0uld for any other element in their domain that is responsible for adding value to the organization.
Here are some ideas you may wish to consider:
- Set an annual budget for meeting costs (including time/resources)
- Set a scheduled begin and end – start on time and end on time or end early
- Create a unique agenda for each meeting
- Have your team understand what it costs to run or go over on time
- Measure performance against that budget
- Use the meeting to set team objectives
- Avoid one-way meetings – delegate assignments – track results
- Rotate (delegate) who runs the meeting – teach your staff meeting prep & management
- Document success / accomplishments from meeting assignments
- Report accomplishments up!
Understanding Meeting Costs
Often a hidden cost within business that is overlooked or poorly managed is the time spent in meetings. In today’s post, I am specifically referring to the mandatory staff meeting, often weekly. A department or team rarely understands just how expensive the meeting is, let alone how much it costs the company to go past the scheduled time.
When I tell a client that a 20 person half-day weekly department meeting costs the company $220,000 annually, they just about drop out of their seats. They begin to understand that the cost demands value to the organization. I show them this simple equation:
Staff x Rate x Hours x 50 weeks = Annual Cost of meetings
20 x $55.00 x 4 x 50 = $220,000
- Staff would be the number of employees attending the meeting. I used 20 in this example.
- Rate is the fully burdened hourly rate that you would get from HR or your Accountant. I used $55.00 per hour for staff averaging 70K salaries in this example.
- Hours are the scheduled time each week of your meeting. I used 4 for this example
So going over schedule in this example would be:
20 x $55.00 or $1100 an hour to the company. (2x for the opportunity cost if you want to be picky or $2200 per hour)
Some immediate benefits
When you begin to hold your meetings accountable for more then update sessions and keep track of your costs you will begin to see some startling changes in your teams performance.
- Reducing meetings to an hour each week can be used to report savings to the company.
- Delegation and the results from those assignments can be used to promote tangible benefits against the costs
- Rewarding your team for completing meetings before the scheduled end time. This can be assigned as savings
- Teach the team when to use the entire staff or a subset to save the costs to the company
- Monthly reporting to your manager will help them understand the value of this large expanse.
Who knows, you may be asked to run your bosses meetings or be asked to train other managers because your department will be doing so well.