purpose board meeting strategy

In our previous post, we examined why it is important to state purpose along with product for every meeting. In this second part of the series, we will continue our breakdown of how a clearly defined purpose combats dysfunction and leads to better outcomes. If you missed the first post, you can go back and read it here.

Applying purpose in context

In some meetings, application of purpose can seem straightforward. Other times, we have to wait for an “aha” moment. In the first post of this series, we looked at how T&D Systems transitioned from working as a singular entity to into two separate companies, as a result of challenging regulations.

Project status meetings accounted for thousands of meetings a year — their project portfolio was extensive. If the purpose was not clearly defined, these status meetings could have evolved into a waste of time and money for the company. This issue is not unique to T&D. Companies in many industries struggle to keep status meetings productive and timely. Applying a clear purpose can make all the difference.

Facilitator Dave Adelman provided us the following story about status meetings from a recent participant in an Effective Facilitator training class:

As a pseudo-project manager, the most important meeting of each week is a simple status update where the participants are all internal stakeholders of my current project. Throughout the Effective Facilitator course, I kept asking myself how to apply these principles to my meeting when the only thing we do is discuss new problems and potential solutions. Earlier this week the light bulb above my head finally sparked — there was no purpose or product. The purpose will guide the meeting and keep the team functional.

Dave’s story articulates the development of a defined purpose as it relates to something as routine as a status meeting. On the surface, it seems simple.

Purpose: To report on the status of XYZ project.

Like the original purpose statement from T&D, this statement isn’t buttoned-up enough to keep the group on track. For a project status meeting, the team needs to be steered in the right direction.

Purpose: Report on the status and identify issues and risks facing the project that will impact the budget, schedule, and scope.

The refined purpose statement doesn’t say to solve the issues. Clearly defined statements guide the team into identifying risks to the project without wasting time. Status meetings are meant to be the one-way dissemination of information, not a working meeting. Let’s explore the solution.

Breaking down the status meeting

In the status portion of the meeting, every decision, issue, or risk that comes up that cannot be resolved in a few minutes should be parked on the issues board. At the end of the status portion, go to the board. Is everyone that needs to participate in the resolution of an issue present? If not, assign the follow-up on that issue.

For issues where the key stakeholders are present or represented, prioritize the list and estimate the time needed for resolution of each. Work through the list by priority. For issues that you don’t have time to address, assign the follow-up to someone present at the meeting.

Purpose unifies teams

The purpose statement reaches beyond the status meeting. It involves “heads, hands, and hearts” as we discussed in our previous post in this series. In their heads, people know they have addressed the issues holding the project back. In their hearts, they feel and believe that the team is aware of their issues. Their hands are equipped to address those issues and move the project down the line. Carefully wording your purpose statement adds impact to a meeting. Sticking within the boundaries of that purpose keeps the team on the same page. Purposes can change, but it’s important that the team is on board.

Tell us your stories. If you would like to share a story about the impact (good or bad) of purpose statements in your meetings, comment below.

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