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December 8th, 2007

How to properly wrap up a meeting

No, you don’t do it with scissors and tape just like the image on the left indicates. A meeting wrap-up is basically the summary, the last part of the meeting where the people are ready to pack up their stuff and leave. With everyone watching the clock at this point, you need to bring the meeting to an end. Here’s how you can do that well:

Make sure that all the listed attendees are still there. Oh you know why. You’ve probably excused yourself at least once in your life during a meeting to “go to the bathroom”, when really you were answering a phone call from your best friend about the latest gossip. All the attendees should be present during the wrap-up because it pretty much summarizes everything that happened - quite handy for those who dozed off or daydreamed.

Go over the main points briefly. Because at least one person will miss or forget some of the points that were raised.

Read out loud the list of deliverables, who’s accountable for them, and when they’re due. Forgive me if I assume that your colleagues have the short term memory of a goldfish, but you need to be absolutely sure that they’ll be doing their assigned tasks. Doing this at the end of the meeting helps everyone remember what their deliverables are, and they’re more likely to start planning it as soon as the meeting ends.

Arrange the follow-up meeting. Some meetings need to have a follow-up, and you need to schedule it before the current meeting ends. If you have a rough idea of what the agenda will be, announce it as well.

Let them know where they can access the meeting minutes. Is it via email, a memo, or is a mime going to perform it via interpretative dance? Most attendees will need to access the meeting minutes for their own projects, or as a reference to some tasks. It helps if you tell them where they can find/receive the information.

Ask if anyone has questions or comments. Some people won’t be saying anything in the “heat of the moment”, especially if the meeting is about something sensitive. In my experience, I often don’t ask questions the second I think of them because I’ll be interrupting a speaker. If anyone has reserved any questions or comments for the end of the meeting, they should be given the chance to express them.

End it positively. Thank everyone for attending. Let them know you appreciate the time and effort they took to be there. This is especially important since most people don’t like meetings.

This wraps up today’s post on how to wrap up your meetings. If you like Pimp Your Work, please subscribe to the RSS feed or vote for Pimp Your Work in the b5 Business Channel Apprentice Contest (it’s a poll in the right column).

By Celine -- 6 comments

November 15th, 2007

Want to know how much a meeting costs? Check out Meeting Miser

Almost all Some meetings are a complete waste of time. You can easily identify this kind of meeting if you’re sitting in a conference room, thinking “What a waste of time!”. If this is familiar, keep in mind that you’re also wasting money. Figure out exactly how much money a meeting costs with Meeting Miser.

Basically, this online tool computes how much each attendee is paid by the hour, letting you know how many precious dollars your company is throwing away spending on a particular meeting. Project this tool the next time you’re having a meeting and watch your supervisors sweat as the dollars add up. This makes the tool both fun and productive.

If you like Pimp Your Work, please subscribe to the full feed RSS so that you’ll be instantly notified of updates.

By Celine -- 0 comments

January 12th, 2007

Alone-time Required for Creative Best

Presentation Zen, one of my favorite blogs, talks about the need for solitude in order to have effective presentations.

I’d agree with that. But, I’d go much further.

In today’s fast, fast, fast business climate, there has become too little time for reflection. There are lots of reasons for this, of course. Off the top of my head:

  • Too many distractions
  • Too many tasks to complete
  • Too many employees to manage
  • Too much focus on the short term
  • Too much e-mail to process
  • And others.

Thinking Time is a luxury we no longer have. The time to sit back and assess what is important is a lost art — and skill. How many people do you know who can take the time to put their feet up on their desks and just stare at their whiteboard?

In order to have the necessary thinking time, we order ourselves and/or teams off-site from the office — to get away from the interruptions, of course — and then blatently schedule ourselves in ten-minute intervals so that we can see 27-more PowerPoints about our strategies for the coming year and then get ten-minutes to take little stickies and vote on which strategy is the most important for us to work on over the coming year. And that ten-minute exercise becomes what is most important. OMG!

Yes, that was a long, ongoing sentence. Designed to convey the relentless number of tasks that get in the way of just thinking about what’s important.

I don’t know about you, but it takes a while away from it all to get to the point where I can start thinking about what needs to be done. A perspective about what is most important. I can’t do it in ten-minute sticky votes on a wall at an off-site session that is more tightly scheduled than a regular work day.

How about you?

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

January 5th, 2007

Focus on the “To-be” process

In yesterdays post, I wrote about responsiveness and efficiency. In the article referenced, there was another gem that I think is an important pimpalicious work tip: focus on the “to-be” process, not on the current process.

If you or your company have already made the decision to change out something, the vast majority of time you spend on documenting the current something is a waste of time and effort. The decision to change has already been made and how the current process works provided all the reasons to make a change.

Instead, focus on how you want the business process to work with the change — the “to-be” process. Most people already know where the problems are in the current process since they’ve been living with the pain all this time anyway.

Spending more time on the solutions gives everyone the opportunity to optimize how the new process should work, build out the right requirements for any systems changes and find any other issues that could cause problems early on in the game.

This is a hard lesson to implement — people naturally like complaining and if it is complaining about the current process, so be it. But, its time to move on. So focus on how to make it all better and don’t live in the past.

By Scot Herrick -- 2 comments

January 2nd, 2007

My Idea Board

I am fortunate that I have a large white board where I work that I can use for…whatever. At the end of 2006, I was staring at the white board, noting how much stuff was still showing up on the board even after being erased.

So I got out the cleaning spray and cleaned off all the old stuff so my white board actually became white again. Twice, because old stuff is hard to get rid of sometimes. Not just on white boards…

I don’t know about you, but my white board is My Idea Board. In discussing stuff with my team or peers, the notes go on the board. If someone is taking notes, what is on the board goes into MindMap. As we discuss the ideas, the notes on the board get modified, erased, and thrown out of the discussion. Later on, the ideas start to build into a structure that can be used to start building something.

Nothing on the white board, you see, is permanent. Only what we put into our tracking systems becomes what needs to be done.

I’m starting off this year with a clean white board — the more modern version of a “clean slate.”

Today, I’m going to start getting a lot of use of My Idea Board. It’s a new work year and it’s time to go get some ideas and start to build what we want to get done.

Is your white board ready?

By Scot Herrick -- 1 comment

December 6th, 2006

Performance Reviews Control Companies

In my post yesterday, I noted that there are two ways executives and managers can get control of a company. The first way was through budgets.

Today we’ll examine what, in my Pimp Opinion, is the second way executives can get control (and start to change the culture) of a company.

The second way is through performance reviews.

In yesterdays post, for example, we said that reviewing budgets with the people responsible for the budget on a regular basis was necessary for control. But the truth of the matter is that behavior doesn’t change just through meetings. No, behavior changes when managers start hitting the pocketbook of people responsible for implementing the work.

So it does an executive no good to review budgets in meetings and whine about the budgets not being met. It does make a big difference to take away a person’s bonus because the goals weren’t met.

I worked in a company where the Chairman and CEO believed that the amount of Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) was a good metric to meet for some good reasons — and some weird ones. The metric was so critical to the CEO that it was named the “Chairman’s Metric” in the company. The metric was named for him because when two executives didn’t meet the DSO, the performance review reflected that and he took away the entire bonus for the executives. Millions of dollars of bonus.

You either changed your behavior, or you left. Because you were going to lose dollars on the performance review if you didn’t.

Budgets and performance reviews give executives control of a company. Understanding this dynamic will help you understand what needs to be done in your work to make things happen.

Any others?

By Scot Herrick -- 2 comments

December 5th, 2006

Budgets Control Companies

How do those executive types running a business get some level of control over the work being done in a corporation?

You’ve seen all those news stories about executives being parachuted in to come and save the day for the company, right? But how do they do it?

In my Pimp Opinion, there are two ways. The first one is Budgets.

Every business defines profit and loss and that happens through revenue and costs. Some effort is made on the revenue side, of course, through products and services. But getting control is a lot harder on the revenue side because the risk and fickleness of the customer.

But the cost side is relatively easy to get control over. It’s done through budgets. There are many opportunities here:

  • If you don’t like the program as an incoming executive, cut the budget for the program.
  • If you don’t want to add people, deny the job requisitions and cut the personnel budgets.
  • If you want to get managers to be creative, cut the budget across the board.
  • If you want everyone to know you’re serious about this, then review the budget numbers monthly with your direct reports. In detail.

You see, at the end of the day, budgets are really stories about what is being done in the business. It’s not just numbers, but what the numbers represent. It’s not $10 million. It’s implementing a new program that will reduce overall cycle time by 30% and the payoff compared to the $10 million is $30 million.

If you can’t tell your stories through your budget, you won’t be able to defend your actions in business. And if you want to get control of a business quickly, the first step is through defining the budgets.

How else can you get control of a business? I’ll have step two tomorrow.

By Scot Herrick -- 0 comments

November 20th, 2006

Brainstorming doesn’t fix problems

I don’t know about you, but I love to brainstorm ideas. Big ones, small ones, ideas that will help a company and ideas that will help me. Ideas, though, are just the beginning of a process where we have our ideas translate into something that is finished.

The brainstorming role, then, is to come up with innovative ideas. But brainstorming doesn’t fix problems; the brainstorming is used to look at a specific problem in different ways.

When the brainstorming is done, I like to select three good ideas or approaches to the issue being brainstormed. I rank those ideas from one to three and then start with the first. The reason I like three ideas is that if the first doesn’t work out, I can go on to the next. It gives me a feeling of choices still existing out there.

Depending upon the idea selected, the next big hurdle is to lay out a plan to implement the idea. The plan could be very simple — exercise for 30-minutes a day on the treadmill starting tomorrow — to something exceptionally complex such as buying a company.

If the plan is a bit more complex, I like to lay out a few things ahead of time to make sure I can tell if the idea and plan is working:

  • Defining what the idea, fully implemented, would look like
  • Defining some measurements around the current and future state so I could see some difference as I move along the plan
  • Define a pilot that could be implemented much quicker than something long term. This is to allow me to “fail fast” and test the implementation or the idea itself.

Brainstorming is great, but it doesn’t get you to anything different than what you have now. By taking the best ideas and then developing a plan to implement them, you take what you learned in brainstorming and will be able to transform it into what you wanted it to be.

By Scot Herrick -- 2 comments

November 15th, 2006

Brainstorming at Java Cafe

A couple of days ago, I posted a note about brainstorming resulting in innovative ideas. The purpose of the post was to show the base brainstorming process and then explain some of the traps associated with trying to implement the ideas from the session.

Des Walsh, over at Business and Blogging, made a comment on that post that specifically said to not forget to get away from the desk to brainstorm because you will be more relaxed and create room for creativity. He suggested going to the coffee shop to get away from it all, except I’m from Seattle-land and we take to coffee like Seattleites take to water. Or something like that.

But the comment is a good extension of the post. What conditions work best for brainstorming? Are there different conditions for the office compared to your personal life? What conditions work better in a group versus when you are brainstorming by yourself?

Its these types of comments that us Pimps love because it makes us pine for the answer. Now I have to go find what conditions work best. Any good places to start?

By Scot Herrick -- 2 comments