Meeting Effectiveness – Gaining SMART© Consensus For Productivity and Profitability!

Nothing is more frustrating than leaving a meeting with what you feel is a clear understanding of what you and others are to do on a given project, only to come back together and find someone else has dropped the ball!

“Oh, I did not realize I was supposed to do that…” or “Oh, I did not realize you meant for it to be done now…” or “Oh, I did not realize I could use that to do this. I can get started directly on it if you still want.” Consider these the Academy Award-winners of excuse performances; they will continue until you find a non-combative, conversational means for pre-engaging these people before you conclude your next meeting.

While the training and development industry has been advocating a consensus decision-making model for decades, many still find reaching consensus difficult. Consider the SMART© Formula as a template for future one-on-one, email and teleconference dialogues in meetings:

1. Specific (S) – Ensure that there is very precise communication exchange taking place between all appropriate personalities by asking, “Am I specific enough with the details and with “WHAT” is being needed with this person?” The degree of “Specific” will be determine by the knowledge and experience levels of the participants in the dialogue, the previous history you have with them and their personality/social style. Don’t overkill the topic presentation of which a clear understanding and agreement is needed, but at the same time, don’t assume!

2. Measurable (M) – Make sure that “what” is being discussed is also being addressed from the vantage point of “How” it must be addressed or is expected to be addressed.

3. Attain Agreement (A) – This is actually how you monitor whether you are doing the “S, M, R, T” steps of the SMART© formula. Here, your objective is to facilitate a non-threatening conversation with the other person(s) in a meeting, whereby consensus from everyone is sought. Work to attain agreement for each step along the way, thereby removing the opportunity for excuse making to occur!

4. Realistic (R) – Conversationally work to draw affirming comments from each participant to ensure that “What” is being discussed and “How” it is to be addressed is reasonable. This requires that your case be made poignantly and factually. If everyone else can see “Why” one must participate, the level of commitment and consensus increases!

5. Time Frame (T) – Obviously, communicating any interim deadlines and the final deadline would be addressing “When” something must be addressed.

Working to ensure effective dialogue among all participants to a decision is essential to idea generation and increased productivity and profitability associated with a decision. Making that decision, and ensuring the highest level of consensus, buy-in and execution from all attendees in a meeting situation, makes the use of the SMART© Formula even smarter tactical leadership!

You can even enhance the level of effectiveness coming out of a meeting. For example, send an after-action e-mail to all participants in the meetings, as well as all appropriate management players to whom the players in the meeting report. In the short e-mail, detail who owns which items and invite everyone to e-mail any suggestions for greater efficiency at the outset.

Be smart in your actions, and increased productivity on the part of everyone equally will become the norm of your business.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Meeting Effectiveness – Delegation Dynamics Ensure Productivity and Profitability!

Many implosions have occurred in business today, due to miss communication on the delegation process. And most of these happen within meetings that place functional players in conflict with leaders daily.

Management experts find that there are typically five opportunities for miss delegation or delegated tasks to implode. By turning these five into opportunities for growth and recognizing that most delegation is an outgrowth of a meeting, here are five considerations:

  1. Objective – It is paramount to clearly communicate “what” is needed or expected versus assuming that “what” you want is “what” they perceive as being asked for or requested.
  2. Deadline – The obvious of the delegation aspects is most often communicated in a vague manner. For example, indicating to someone that a project is due by the end of the day is dramatically different than saying, “I need this by 4:30 p.m. today!”
  3. Empowerment – Allowing a person the authority to execute a decision in any manner they desire is important. So too is placing perimeters upon a person as to “how” something must or can be executed.
  4. Access – Ensuring that the project will not be adversely affected because someone can’t get access to information, materials or supplies is critical. So, if it is necessary, send out a blanket email to the universe communicating when you have tasked someone with a specific task and that they have specific/limited access to the universe. This will ensure someone does not derail his or her success at your expense!
  5. Follow-Up – If it is apparent that during the execution of a project, because of the depth of the task or the personalities involved, that you may want to have some routine communication to ensure that everything is progressing, pre-call this act at the time of the initial delegation. Likewise, if after the delegated task is completed, if you would like to get with the delegates and see what lessons can be gleaned, pre-all this date at the time of delegation as well. While the intent of both of these acts is positive, if they are not pre-called, and you attempt to merely do them after-the-fact, others may perceive it as negative.

The beauty of these five tactical engagement steps is that they can be deployed whether one is the delegator or the delegate.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Meeting Effectiveness – Basic Management Techniques & Alternatives For Maximum Productivity!

Think of the last time someone you know was upset because there was one less meeting on his or her business calendar. Or, for that matter, when was the last time you were upset because a meeting you did not want to attend was cancelled?

Conversely, think of the number of times we are called to a meeting and the associated feelings with that meeting, once we realize that the meeting was a waste of time.

The Wharton School of Business recently released a study, indicating that by the time one retires from business, if a title, such as manager, leader, supervisor, entrepreneur, etc., is associated to his or her name, they will have spent about 34 percent of their career in a meeting!

Here Are Ten Tactical Management Tools For Meeting Effectiveness:

1. Alternative – Before considering calling for a meeting or attending a meeting, always ask yourself if there is a better alternative for accomplishing that meeting’s agenda, such as a conference call, e-mail, memo or one-on-one intervention. If the agenda does not directly impact others, cancel the meeting, since it was about to be called to order out of simple meeting habit…

2. Hold A Huddle – A downside to actual meetings is that they convey sitting. This means people bring drink and food, and it can easily digress into a social setting on someone else’s budget. A huddle is a great means to gather key players for a quick duration and do so in a standing environment (hallway). Thus it becomes difficult for the drinks, snacks and socializing to occur when everyone is focused upon content, note taking, action solution development and execution.

3. Agenda – Any meeting without the use of a written agenda is an opportunity for people to come together and wonder aimlessly in dialogue for hours. Remember the last meeting you attended, where the subject matter (code for agenda) could have been addressed in a few minutes, yet 30-minutes later you were still sitting there? With the development of a simple agenda (it can even be scribbled out on a sheet of paper to be placed on a table between participants!), you can ensure that you have your notes, documentation and advocates in order before you implement the meeting and begin to work from the strategically developed agenda.

4. ID The Meeting Type – To greatly increase productivity, recognize, from the outset, what type of meeting this really is. There are only three basic types of meetings, each with its own associated management style for maximum productivity. ONE, “Information-Sharing,” is when attendees are brought together and given information. The management style here is very “Autocratic.” Any Q&A associated with that agenda is fair game; everything else is off limits. Therefore, if there is no Q&A, the meeting is over. TWO, “Information-Gathering,” is when attendees are brought together and information is developed and dialogued. Q&A occurs, and as long as attendees are within the perimeters of the agenda, anything goes. Thus a more “Democratic” management style is executed here. THREE, the “Information-Creation,” is otherwise known as a brain storming session. Here, the style has a more “Laissez-faire” approach, and anything goes.

5. Location – Always hold a meeting in the location most conducive for the agenda. “What resources do we need to execute the agenda? What distractions do I want to eliminate?” These are great questions to take into consideration when selecting a location – it may mean changing the complete geography of a meeting and moving it from where it would traditionally be held!

6. Time – It is critical to the success of any meeting to reflect upon the agenda and determine three time-sensitive factors: ONE, When would be a bad time for this meeting? Typically, holding a meeting at the beginning of the day or directly after lunch can be low a productivity time windows for the day; TWO, When would be a good time for this meeting? Holding your meeting directly on the front side of an even more pressing meeting may ensure greater attendance and attention; THREE, How much time does this agenda require?

7. Role Assignment – Spread the burden of meeting management among the participants in order to gain greater professionalism and participation. There are three critical roles to facilitating an effective meeting, and you should not have to do everything. So have them assigned, and rotate the roles with each meeting. Consider: ONE, Have a “Secretary” take notes, so there is a history of the discussion, which serves as a reference for both you and those who did not attend the meeting; TWO, Have someone serve as the “Time Keeper,” ensuring that everyone gets an opportunity to talk and the meeting remains on track and finishes in a timely manner; THREE, Have a “Hall Crier,” who assists in getting everyone to the meeting location on time. This starts the meeting on a positive note.

8. Cost – What a meeting costs, in both hard time and real financials, can be staggering if one actually computes the meeting. Consider some of these financials: ONE, Determine the per-minute salary of every attendee andwho you can afford to attend the meeting. You may want to design the agenda to excuse certain players, so as to not waste their time and your money; TWO, Cross reference the amount of time a meeting will last with the lost productivity of each meeting attendee and the add-on lost productivity associated with people not doing their work because they can’t reach someone in your meeting; THREE, There are all of the environmental costs like room, lighting, snacks, equipment, etc.; FOUR, Any outside personalities involved and all of their related expenses. The financial costs associated with a meeting alone may be enough to cause some meetings to be cancelled!

9. Have Advocates – Consider your agenda and who among the attendees has the most to gain from any specific item. Then consider ways to approach them before then meeting, so when you raise specific items on the agenda, you increase their reception by others because of the buy-in from some at the outset. This may mean you will have to be willing to negotiate items in their scope or execution as you pre-dialogue with perspective advocates!

10. End With Action Review – Always end a meeting (whether the meeting is telephonic, web cast or face-to-face) with a review of what items were resolved, what items are to be acted upon, what the specific next steps are (whether it be a deadline, follow-up meeting or huddle) and who owns each.

So the next time you attend a meeting, recognize what measures can be tactically administered to increase the overall effectiveness of all participants for maximum productivity!

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – Balancing The Three Forces Of Decision Implementation!

SERIES: Part Four of a Four-Part ArticleWith every decision comes the balancing act of the three primary factors that impact the overall decision to be made and the corresponding politics associated with the stakeholders of each factor or faction.
If the output of any given decision is increased productivity and profitability, then think of the decision-making process in your business as a triangle. Each side is labeled with one of the three corresponding factors that influence the output of any decision. On that triangle label:
1.      Financials/Costs
2.      Time/Deadlines
3.      Quality/Expectations
In an ideal decision-making process, productivity would allow an individual to weigh all three factors equally and draw upon the best of each. The best being:
1.      The obvious elements that comprise that factor
2.      The individuals who own that factor
3.      The committees, experts, vendors, personnel assets, equipment, technology, etc. associated with a factor
4.      The ideal output from a factor to be incorporated into the final product of a decision
In reality, one of these three sides most often will be in a state of jeopardy. With this model in mind, now you can make an educated judgment as to which side is least important if you must negotiate away or down any one factor. You can now work, as a safety measure, a side that may be overlooked in an otherwise hastily executed decision.
This model aids in controlled conversations with colleagues, employees, superiors, clients and vendors to ensure all sides are considered in the discussion of an impending decision and in the execution of productivity. For example, if someone has a tight deliverable window for a decision, you might need to discuss the quality decrease that may occur or the need for additional revenue or assets to ensure that the deadline is met and no quality declines are experienced.
To increase productivity tactically, ensure that when tasked with a decision, if any of these three critical factors is outside of your sphere of experience or knowledge, you access those assets and involve them at the earliest possible time.  Don’t put off the obvious in decision making, as the longer you wait the more pressure will be placed on the three forces.

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – The Basic Functionality Of Decision Making With The STOP Formula©!

It is estimated that the top barriers to effective decision making in daily business run the gamut from procrastination and paralysis-of-analysis to fear and avoidance. Study any entrepreneur or perceived successful individual and what you will not observe is the presence of these barriers!
To increase your daily productivity, consider the basic functionality of how one’s brain processes data and how one can template that action for decision-making success.
In order to facilitate the basic process of decision making, your brain must:
1.      See the STIMULANT to be addressed.
2.      RATIONALIZE that stimulant as being worthy of one’s time.
3.      Establish realistic courses of RECOURSE in dispensing with that stimulant.
4.      COMMIT to that recourse which will then be made or implemented.
To facilitate the decision process in pursuit of increased productivity and, thus, profitability to an organization or business, one needs a decision-making formula that parallels the brain flow from a business perspective and ensures avoidance to the barriers to effective decision making. Consider the “STOP Formula©”:
1.      S:  Stop and See the stimulant at hand. If you can isolate and see the stimulant needing attention, you will avoid procrastination.  This means you are on your way toward increased productivity by avoiding the first barrier to success!
2.      T:  Target and Think through why that stimulant has been raised to your attention. While you make a case for or against the stimulant, you are working through the rationalization phase.  By moving smoothly forward and recognizing that there is another step, you will avoid paralysis-of-analysis, the second barrier to success!
3.      O:  Organizing Options for forward movement is the concentration of this third step in the decision process. Explore multiple viable recourse or option plans, recognizing that the word “options” in this step is plural.  Until there are plural forward pathways, one should not hastily move forward. By doing this, you can address fear-based reasons for not moving forward confidently and become more confident to move to the fourth, and final, step in the decision process for increased productivity.
4.      P:  Pick and Proceed with the option that is most viable. By committing to that action plan, you will also always have a backup plan.  If, in fact, you did step three effectively and not hastily, you will avoid the barrier of not moving forward.
The parallel applications of this formula are explosive. You can also use it in pursuit of presentations and decision making with others to facilitate a controlled, systematic dialogue, by presenting one item or step at a time.  You will progress smoothly and increase group productivity. This can also be used in crises, decision-making situations in business to ensure tactical control and emotional containment, by addressing each of the four functional decision steps at a time.
Increased productivity comes from the basic functionality of the decision-making process gained by using the STOP Formula© daily!
-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – Mission Statements Serve As Road Maps To Greater Productivity And Decreased Conflicts!

Every day good people in good businesses come into work and invest significant energies working against one another. Finally, someone stops and asks, “Why are the individual decisions made by people actually holding us back from significant productivity and profitability opportunities?”

This may not be as rare as one might think. Finding the answer to how to get more people to work from the same perspective is easier than one might expect. This is because each person has differing understandings of what decisions need to be made – there is no common map off which to benchmark independent decisions.

To address this, there are Five Distinct Mission Statements that every business needs to consider, define and post. Once these mission statements are posted, individuals will have a common map to guide their decisions and actions and increase productivity.

A Mission Statement is like a well-defined MAP. With it, each decision and action lets you know if you are on course, off course, ahead of schedule or behind it. With a well-defined map (mission statement), productivity explodes!

I liken a mission statement to that of a map. A commonality among adults needing to drive, for example, from where they are to an unknown destination, is to generate a map to guide their individual decisions. This should be the same drill followed daily in business!

There are Five Mission Statements of which one should be aware in order to make better decisions and tactically increase daily productivity.

  1. Mission Statement One, Organizational – The senior stakeholders should define the purpose of the business in this first and overlying statement referred to as the Organizational Mission Statement. This will give all subsequent leaders and functional areas a guidepost for crafting their contributing components.
  2. Mission Statement Two, Functional Work Area (department, line, shift, unit, team, etc.) – Each member of a work area should participate in crafting his or her purpose and, thus, contributing piece to the overall Organizational Mission Statement in their own Functional Work Area statement. After everyone has participated in crafting this mission statement, each person can now reference any decision or action against this statement to determine independently whether it should be pursued or dropped in pursuit of greater productivity!
  3. Mission Statement Three, Customer – The customer can be a moving target, as who you are engaging at any time may differ. Knowing what their needs, purposes and desires are is their Customer Mission Statement.  This will aid you in determining whether you can accommodate them.
  4. Mission Statement Four, Colleague – Likewise, knowing why your colleagues are associated with your team is the window through which you can see what their motivators and de-motivators are. Knowing this assists you in recognizing what items you may want to raise in their presence in order to influence the overall productivity of the team!
  5. Mission Statement Five, You – With the gained insight from knowing the first four mission statements, an individual can craft a personal mission statement that will serve to guide his or her own decisions for increased productivity!

With well-defined Mission Statements, good people in good businesses come into work every day and invest significant energies, working in concert with one another. Tactical decision-making is impossible without clear maps from which one is expected to work.  And with clear maps, productivity explodes!

-Dr Jeff Magee
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Decision Making – Using The Quadrant Manager System© Ensures Greater Productivity Versus Activity!

When the dust settles and the calm returns, the degree of quality productivity versus sheer activity will mean the difference between profitability and mere sustainability in today’s business place. To attain this, one must be able to facilitate basic decision-making in relation to what one focuses energy on and what should be set aside or ignored entirely.

In today’s business place, whether a professional uses an electronic self-management device (PDA) or a more traditional day planner, it is critical that the use of a tactical system be adopted and used diligently for true productivity.

An incredibly simple, yet explosive, tactical productivity decision-making instrument that can be adopted into any system is the “Quadrant Manager System© (QM)!”

To ensure maximum productivity, use the following instrument daily. It can be added to any existing system to ensure the totality of listed action items needing daily attention get the appropriate level of attention. The instrument also serves as an efficient daily monitoring instrument at mid-day by evaluating what items in one’s business have been addressed by mid-day and thus where energies should be focused for the remainder of the day.

Always remember, there is a difference between being active and being productive!

To use the QM System© there are three distinct tactical steps. Both psychology and profitability are incorporated into the implementation of the QM System©. If you shortcut any step, you will find that you will lapse into an ACTIVITY zone and not a PRODUCTIVITY zone!

  1. STEP ONE, CREATE IT – Anywhere on your existing physical day planning device or on any blank sheet of paper, merely draw a large plus sign. Make the sign large enough to make small notes within the four quadrants imposed by the intersecting lines, yet small enough to not take up much physical space.
    The plus sign created by the intersecting lines creates four distinct quadrants (hence the QM System©), each representing a productivity zone. In any order, it does not matter, label the four quadrants: TO DO, TO SEE, TO CALL, TO WRITE.
    These represent the only workable action items one faces in business. All tasks, assignments, and activities can be attributed to any one of these four quadrants!
  2. STEP TWO, BUILD IT – Regardless of the totality of items you may have assigned to a pre-existing action/to do list, to increase productivity greatly, you must evaluate each category within the QM System©.  Only write up to, and never more than, THREE ENTRIES in each quadrant. If there are not three items needing attention for a given day in a given quadrant, don’t make up extra work for yourself.  If there are more than three, the rule of thumb is, “If I could only work on up to, and no more than, three items per quadrant, which three would be most important?”
    Now you have identified the three most important action items for productivity for a given day.  If accomplished, you will have completed the top 12 most productive items needing your attention, as opposed to countless items that, while they may have needed attention, were not critical and, thus, not important.  When the dust settled they were probably more along the lines of items that occupied a lot of activity and not productivity!
  3. STEP THREE, PRIORITIZE IT – Now evaluate each quadrant independently. Using the same methodology used for placing the initial entries into the quadrants, evaluate and prioritize each quadrant’s action items by asking, “If I could only work on one item in this quadrant, which one would be most important?”

Continue that evaluation for all entries in each quadrant and for all four quadrants.

When you are done, you will have a maximum of three items per quadrant, and each will have a descending numerical value associated with it. Notice that you may have items in a quadrant that, while you wrote them down as the first entry in that quadrant, have a value of two or three associated with them.  This indicates that they get your attention only after the “one’s” have been completed or pushed forward as far as they can for legitimate reasons.

To ensure maximum productivity, always work tactically on those items that are genuinely most important. You can take the QM System© and occasionally modify your attention by drawing a circle in the middle of the instrument. Then prioritize the quadrants, one more important than the other, as well as the items within each quadrant.

Additional lessons learned from the implementation of the system are: All items that fall at level three or below are those that should either be delegated away to others or should never have been allowed onto your figurative desk; you can use the instrument as a conversation reference with those that over-task you by engaging in cooperatively deciding which items need your true attention and which items can be better tasked away to others; you can modify the system and have tactical variations for just marketing, selling, research-development, business projects, and so on.

Success in the new economy is dependent upon every player at every level setting aside those items that may be fun but are not productivity items for one’s bottom line purpose!

-Dr Jeff Magee
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