April 20, 2014

Meeting Overload – How Group Meetings can Hinder Getting Things Done in your Community

Whether you work in a corporate setting or for a government entity, I am sure all of you have experienced “Death by Meeting,” which is actually a title of a book by author Patrick Lencioni.

Calling a meeting is a great idea for organizing collective power to get things done, but when the group spends most of its time meeting and little of its time acting, they have a problem.

I have seen this repeatedly when working with cities, towns and counties to initiate a vision and action plan. The key players are excited about the possibilities of improving their community, so they call a group meeting. They discuss. They take notes. They leave the meeting feeling invigorated about the future.

And then…nothing.

They schedule another meeting for the next month. The next time the group meets, the same topic may come up again. What has progressed since the last meeting? Nothing. If everyone is on board, why isn’t anything happening?

I have discovered several reasons for this inactivity that comes from meeting overload:

1) No written game plan. In order to reach goals, you need to have a written game plan for how you will achieve a specific objective or objectives. For communities, we call it the Winning Communities Strategic Vision & Action Plan. Someone needs to formalize the group’s goals, write them down, and distribute them to the group.

2) No list of action items. The game plan needs to include a variety of concrete, actionable items. For community vision plans, an example would be to form a steering committee, designate a communications point person, hire a consultant, find funding sources, etc. Without a list of action items, your goals will remain just that — goals. Brainstorm on all possible action items that the group must complete to achieve the goal(s).

 3) Persons responsible. For each action item, assign a person, persons or group responsible for making it happen. Whether it’s the local marketing firm to promote the community vision project and mail out postcards to residents, or the local banquet center who will be hosting the kickoff celebration, your group needs to determine what parties are responsible for which items. Don’t forget to notify those individuals or groups that they are responsible for the action! We find it helpful to make a chart of these action items, activities and persons responsible to keep the group organized.

4) Timetable for achievement. Always include an anticipated completion date for each action item in the game plan. Try to work backward from the end goal, and determine how long it might take to finish the action. Remember that your team can be working on some goals concurrently for maximum efficiencies. Finally, have an overall completion date for your entire project or group. This motivates the group to continue and to achieve more.

5) Designate a leader. If your group has trouble staying organized and keeping individuals motivated to complete the action items, I recommend hiring a consultant or designating a leader to keep things on track. Give this person the role of facilitator for the meetings, and allow them to communicate with all members of the group throughout the process, to keep projects and activities rolling and moving forward.

6) Continue the communication. Remember to call a meeting when necessary, but use other communication tools such as email and phone conversations in between meetings to connect with specific members of the group. This will ensure that you can get questions answered or action items crossed off your list without having to wait for the entire group to meet again.

Now that you’ve got some tips for organizing your meetings and structuring your group’s goals, you’re on your way to the ultimate goal – and that is getting things done.

About Jim Dittoe

Jim Dittoe is a community coach and founder of Winning Communities, a community planning, visioning and consulting company established in 1994 to help communities and organizations envision the future and develop goals and action plans for success. Jim engages leaders within the community to step up and take action, while guiding them through his proven, 90-day action community planning process to achievement.