Effective and Ineffective Workgroup Meetings

Surrounding yourself with smart people is one of the best ways to increase your creativity (and to learn tremendous amounts of interesting things). However, smart people alone are not enough. Recently I had a look at the ways people meet in workgroup meetings. Written below are some differences between good and bad workgroup meetings based on personal observations and the opinions of others (and some very good Dilbert Cartoons ;-)).

Remark: I have never seen a totally bad meeting (although some came close) — the good and the bad column are collections from many different workplaces and meetings over a pretty long time frame.

Dimension good bad
Aim create and maintain the identity as a member of the workgroup and of the company; being a part of something pure “you work for me” meeting (supervisor gets information from his employees and distributes tasks)
Agenda fixed and variable elements; known to everyone hidden agenda of the supervisor, information that fits is used, unfitting information is ignored (e.g., by saying “we could do this, but we also could do xyz” [with xyz being a part of the hidden agenda])
Leadership clear quasi-democratic (disastrous for a meeting with an aim, esp. if that aim is going to raise opposition)
Dealing with Input treated seriously, is fairly discussed supervisor jokes about it or immediately tells his first association (which is rarely suiting), if it fits in the hidden agenda it is accepted, if not it is ignored
top-down information are given no information given
bottom-up information flashlight status-reports, everyone knows afterward what the other workgroup members are doing and which information they might need if someone stumbles upon them no bottom-up information
atmosphere good, known, trusted, private room, coffee and cakes open area, no privacy, in a “fishtank”
time first thing in the morning some time during the day (when it’s “suiting”)
date always on the same time and date; date is set and only reminders are sent, long-term planning is possible variable and always with several minutes of planning, often postponed at the last minute, unclear whether a meeting is done at all, easy to miss
punctuality yes supervisor arrives late (and consequently leads by example for the following meetings)
outlook information about next meeting only date/time is determined
misuse of power none uses position of power to decide when it is postponed due to bad personal planning or demands information that should be read for the meeting to be repeated during the meeting because he was “in higher demand than the rest of the workgroup”
outside information given, e.g., interesting conferences, developments at the competition, etc. none
start/ending clear start (Agenda, flashlight-status-reports), clear end diffuse beginning and diffuse end (often because time is up)
result members of the workgroup are informed about the others, know what is going on, get some input for their projects unclear given the hidden agenda, the often high-level (20.000 feet) view of the supervisor and the lack of clear assignments

If you have experienced good and bad workgroup meetings (i.e., any at all), I would be interested in your experiences. What made the meeting good? What made it bad? Did you try to make the good meetings standard? Did you try to change the bad ones for the better? Do you think this is possible? And if you did, how did you do so? A comment would be much appreciated. 🙂

Categories: Community Aspects, Science


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