Get more from your business meetings

One of the key elements of successful profit improvement is simply to get people round a table to devise solutions. Whether it is a firm-wide performance improvement panel with one of our advisers, or just a small team focused on a specific project, the 'round table' approach has undeniable benefits:

  • It enables those who are 'at the coalface' to make a contribution, thus ensuring that any decisions taken will be well informed
  • It ensures that all the key players 'own' the problem and buy into the solution, thus improving both accountability and commitment

Structured discussion

But there is more to a successful round table than just bringing the parties together and inviting them to say their piece:

  1. From the outset the discussion must be structured so that it leads to a workable solution
  2. Participants must feel free to contribute their ideas in a non-judgmental, non-censorious atmosphere

Focusing on solutions not problems

A simple technique that enables you to achieve both these goals is to begin with a brainstorm and introduce a simple rule that all contributions must be prefaced with the words, 'How to....'

Thus, rather than saying, 'The problem is the bottleneck at the welding station', or 'When is someone going to do something about the bottleneck at welding?' the participant would say simply, 'How to remove the bottleneck at welding...'

This immediately creates a positive tone for the discussion and focuses minds on the solution rather than the problem.

Develop an action plan

It is a good idea to have a facilitator who records each contribution, perhaps on a flip chart.
Then in the second half of the meeting the participants:

  1. Choose from the contributions those solutions that seem most appropriate
  2. Assign specific actions to individuals to accomplish the chosen solutions
  3. Set timelines and agree a follow up

Experience shows that structuring a discussion in this way not only increases the chances of a positive, practical outcome but also greatly speeds up the meeting.

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