Shifting Gears
Check List: 
 Team Launch
Check List: 

Shifting Gears From Meetings....
to Work Sessions

By Marcia Potter, President, SynTactSolutions, Inc.

Time is precious. If you're like most of our clients, your faced with an endless cycle of meetings.

Your calendar management has been elevated to a science and you wonder what progress, if any, you are making. More and more business is conducted by teams and most team communication occurs during meetings. But the meetings we often observe are not as productive as they could be.

We're finding that business as usual in the traditional form of meeting management is yielding less than maximum output. People are generally worn down and they are having a hard time shifting gears as they hopscotch from one meeting to the next.

Before you launch a new work effort and schedule a start-up meeting ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this effort take more than one meeting of multiple people?
  • What kind of discussions will this work effort require?
  • How long will this effort take (weeks/months)?
  • How will decision making be conducted to create the work product?

If your answers to these questions conjure up the picture of a group effort that:

  • engages people
  • creates a specific type of output
  • is heavily dependent on diverse resources making decisions together...

....you may want to consider a work session format instead of a traditional meeting format.

Shift gears. Work sessions are different from traditional meetings. The table below provides a framework to help you consider the differences.



Typically has a Chairperson or Co-Chairpersons - there is a hierarchy

Emphasis is on as much work getting done at the meeting as possible

Chairperson runs the meetings and manages the agenda

Sessions are goal driven

Not all members present will speak or participate

Boundaries are set for what gets discussed at the session

Members often give "status" on an action item or have been tasked to do research on an issue

Expectation that decisions are made at each session

Often operates by "Rules of Order" (most commonly a modified Rober's Rules")

Work plan defined during first session; work plan becomes the agenda for each successive work session

Progress is not always clear to members

Members are expected to explore options, give ideas, offer information

The only goal may be to complete the proscribed agenda

Linkage to the business is clear

There may be minimal linkage of meeting content from one meeting to the nex

Work plan is time driven and output is expected

Linkage to the business may become fuzzy

Power is shared - the playing field is level

More work is done outside of the meeting

Members balance the responsibility of running the sessions

Few decisions made in allotted meeting time

Dialogue, debate, and closure is critical at each session

Notice that work sessions create the "climate" to get work done within the context of the work session. In contrast, a traditional meeting format leans more toward issue and report status.

In summary, if you are seeking to improve productivity and organizational effectiveness, consider shifting away from group dynamics that resemble traditional meeting management. Focus on goals, the involvement of members present at the sessions, and zero in on how to make measurable progress at each work session. As you move forward, communicate why you are shifting gears and involve members in creating the change that brings about the type of group interaction that gives people a sense of accomplishment for the time spent.

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