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Aug 4, 2020

The Power of a Good Meeting


Many leaders cringe at the prospect of another meeting.

Being whisked from one meeting to the next, overloaded with updates, calls, and video conferences can leave one feeling exhausted, and perhaps wondering if they were truly worth all the time and effort. This may be even more true as much of the work in the public sector increasingly takes place in remote, virtual meetings amid the COVID pandemic.

And yet, the meeting, when done well as part of a routine, can be one of the single most powerful ways to make progress on priorities. The key is to change the culture around meetings to make them feel truly different. 

What does different look like?

Just ask a group of leaders what characteristics of the few meetings they actually look forward to… those rare, exceptional meetings that really feel like they move everything forward. Their answers are likely to yield something like the below list.

Insufficient planning can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes: too much time on unimportant items, rushing through the items that matter, a rambling unfocused debate on the data or the latest updates and so on.

Too much planning can kill a meeting too: participants read from their scripts, everything is orderly and smooth, any potential ‘scene’ is avoided, yet there is no genuine exchange of ideas and no real progress. 

Finding the right combination, being conscious of how meetings unfold, planning them carefully in advance—while making space for genuine deliberation—can unlock the true power of the routine meeting to advance progress. If you can replace bad meeting habits with the good habits outlined above, leaders will be able to look forward to the next meeting as a real chance to solve problems and get important work done.

Adapted from How to Run A Government by Sir Micheal Barber

Other recommended related reading:

Strengthen meetings on COVID-response with these resources

Build your teams' capacity with the Delivery Institute

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