on February 21st, 2017

Dear Colleagues

You will all sigh knowingly when you think of engineering meetings. Often a huge waste of time where the boss holds forth and gives everyone a lecture and participation is rather fractured. Personally I try and avoid them as I have had such bad experiences over the years with them often being unproductive. But they definitely have a vital role to play especially in today’s email ridden world where we sometimes lose the connections and contributions from our peers.

Well – I believe there are two issues with meetings – obviously make ‘em productive and useful – most definitely focus on this – otherwise don’t hold one. But also ensure that everyone feels that they have made a happy productive contribution to the meeting and it wasn’t just a one way dissertation from a few participants - but a high quality experience for everyone with a brilliantly useful outcome.

A few suggestions for your next meeting:

  • Ensure the meeting has a real purpose in collaborating as a team and everyone present should be there – i.e. has a role to play. And that there will be a real outcome from the meeting – not some mumbo jumbo discussion fest which leaves everyone confused and determined to avoid in future.
  • Set up the ground rules at the beginning of the meeting such as avoiding technology distractions, making sure everyone is keen to participate and identifying who will be actively managing the session and helps everyone contribute.
  • Prepare thoroughly beforehand to ensure the meeting isn’t an after thought but something you can create value from by asking the right questions and ending up with everyone contributing to a valuable experience. It is not simply yet another meeting rushed through on your way to another meeting.
  • Demonstrate empathy and care for your fellow participants. Listen carefully and constructively to others. Don’t bulldoze your way through with some interminable lecture which drives everyone crazy.
  • Ensure you have sufficient time for all topics – adjust your agenda for fewer agenda items and more time per item. And ensure the meeting doesn’t go on forever. Ensure that everyone participates  and makes a contribution to the topics.
  • Very importantly – when you ask for a contribution – wait quietly for a response. Don’t barrel onto to the next agenda item but show that you genuinely were wanting a contribution.

Hopefully these suggestions will make a difference to your next meeting……

Thanks to Paul Axtell from Harvard Business Review for an interesting article on: How to Design Meetings Your Team Will Want to Attend.

This is probably not germane to this blog item but it goes to the heart of who we are as engineers – a comment from Richard Lamm: All we know about the new economic world tells us that nations which train engineers will prevail over those which train lawyers. No nation has ever sued its way to greatness.

Yours in engineering learning


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