Making Meetings Matter: Designing Engagement for Team Collaboration

Teams are not the sum of their parts – they are the product of their interactions. As today’s organizations grapple with rapid change and uncertainty, they increasingly turn to teams to address complex challenges. Yet most team meetings do not create the conditions necessary to tap into everything that the team brings into the table. Poorly designed meetings squander the opportunities that organizations are relying on teams to exploit.

Have you ever attended a meeting where you had no idea what the desired output was or how you were expected to contribute to it? Or one where the purpose was clear, but the structure of the meeting actively interfered with the team’s ability to achieve it?

In this interactive workshop, you will learn three tools for avoiding these problems. You will diagnose a current meeting to see how it is not currently addressing the teams’ needs. You will break down the patterns of engagement in that meeting to understand what needs to shift in order to address its shortcoming. And you will apply ten principles of collaboration to determine what you can (and will) do to make the interactions in the meeting serve the team’s purpose.


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Note: This structure assumes the existence of breakout rooms to simulate table groups. The total time also only adds up 75 minutes; the remainder is buffer time to account for slow start, transition time, etc.

Partner conversation: Purpose (7 minutes)

  • What does it mean for a meeting to “matter”
  • Why do meetings need to matter in order for teams to be effective?

Triad group work: Reasons for Ineffective Meetings (8 minutes)

  • Think about ineffective meetings you've been in. 
  • What factors contributed to their ineffectiveness? 
  • Make a list of the contributing factors

Presentation: Model 1 – POWER Start (5 minutes)

  • Purpose (including Kaner taxonomy of meeting types; included on worksheet)
  • Outcomes
  • What's In It For the Participants
  • Engagement
  • Roles & Responsibilities

Triad work: Applying the Model (5 minutes)

  • Look over the list of contributing factors your group brainstormed
  • Sort them into the POWER categories 
  • Are there any that don’t land in a category?

Solo Worksheet: Think of a meeting you would like to matter more. (1 minute)


Presentation: Designing Effective Engagement (7 minutes)

  • Purpose and Outcome are actually pretty easy. 
    •  After seeing this model, lots of people improve their articulation of Purpose and Outcome, but their meetings only marginally improve
  • Engagement is where most teams struggle
    •   The Engagement needs to match/support the Purpose and Outcome
    •   Engagement is hard for many because it requires thinking about structure, rather than content 
  • Most “traditional” meeting structures are ill-suited to dealing with the kinds of complex challenges that teams are formed to tackle
    •  How many of you have cross-functional teams?
    •  Why have teams if your Engagement structures don't capitalize on their strengths?
  • To make ineffective meetings better serve your teams, change your Engagement structures 
    •  “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” (Paul Batalden)
    •  "Whatever your client is doing, advise something else." (Jerry Weinberg)

Presentation: Model 2 - Structuring Elements of Engagement (7 minutes)

  • To understand your current structures, you can use Lipmanowisz and McCandless’ Structuring Elements Model (included on worksheet):
    •   Invitation: What are participants being invited to do?
    •   Space & Materials: How is the space arranged and what materials are used?
    •   Participation: Is control centralized or distributed, and how many people are involved in shaping the next steps? (Show grid)
    •   Groups: How are groups configured?
    •   Steps & Timing: What is the sequence of steps and how is time allocated?
  • Each of these becomes a slider you can play with you can to either loosen or tighten constraints (Human Systems Dynamics)
  • In many “traditional” meeting designs:
    •   Invitation: Underconstrained
    •   Space & Materials: Overconstrained
    •   Participation: Overconstrained
    •   Groups: Overconstrained
    •   Steps & Timing: Underconstrained

Solo Worksheet: Structuring Elements (5 minutes)

  • Describe the meeting you would like to improve in terms of POWER
  • For the Engagement component, describe each activity in terms of the Structuring Elements Model

Presentation: Model 3 – Principles for Engagement (5 minutes)

  • Lipmanowisz and McCandless’s principles for “re-adjusting” constraints (included on worksheet)
    •   Include and Unleash Everyone
    •   Practice Deep Respect for People and Local Solutions
    •   Never Start Without a Clear Purpose(s)
    •   Build Trust As You Go
    •   Learn by Failing Forward
    •   Practice Self-Discovery Within a Group
    •   Amplify Freedom AND Responsibility
    •   Emphasize Possibilities: Believe Before You See
    •   Invite Creative Destruction To Enable Innovation
    •   Engage In Seriously Playful Curiosity
  • These can be used as heuristics for “fixing” ineffective Engagement structures

Worksheet: Principles for Engagement (5 minutes)

  • Thinking about the meeting you want to improve, which of these principles are highly present? 
  • Which are not?

Triad conversations: Redesigning Your Meeting to Make it Matter (10 minutes)

  • Which of these principles do you want to see more of in the meeting you want to improve?
  • What might you start doing in order to accomplish that? (some suggestions on worksheet)
  • What might you stop doing? (some suggestions on worksheet)

Triad conversations: Making It Matter (5 minutes)

  • What will you do in the next week to nudge your meeting in the direction of your desired principle?
  • (This is an experiment)
  • Write it on the worksheet

Q&A & Wrap-Up (5 minutes)

Learning Outcome

In this session, participants will:

  • Explain why meetings need to matter in order for teams to be effective
  • Identify common reasons for ineffective meetings
  • Apply three different models to develop ways to improve a team meeting of their choice
  • Commit to an experiment in the next week to make that meeting matter more

Target Audience

Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches, Product Owners, Team Leads, Managers, Facilitators

schedule Submitted 8 months ago