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10Nov

Meeting Fix #1: All Over the Map? Try Outcome-Based Meetings

Miserable meetings are a soul-sucking, time-wasting blight in the workplace. If people in your organization are wondering “why am I here?” or “what’s the point?” during meetings, you’re suffering from meeting mistake #1: the purpose of your meetings are not clear. Shifting to outcome-based meetings will be a game-changer that saves time, increases productivity, and improves morale. 

Every Meeting Needs to Have a Stated, Clear Purpose

157 - presentation-2The word origin behind “meeting” reveals part of the problem. The root word for “meeting” is “gemot” from Old English and the cognate “gemoet” from Dutch. That’s the very same root word that gives us the word “moot.”

Moot means “of little or no practical value, meaning or relevance.” 

Sadly, that’s how a majority of workers describe the meetings they attend, too. 

To get practical value, meaning or relevance into your meetings, ask these three questions before scheduling a meeting:

  1. What is the purpose of this meeting? Note: purpose is singular, not plural! Each meeting should have one (and only one!) stated purpose or desired outcome. 
  2. What benefits will be gained by achieving this purpose? If there are no benefits, what’s the point? Your purpose needs to be one that drives value. 
  3. Who is directly impacted or has vital input? In order to get the desired outcome, who needs to be involved in this discussion? Checking for relevance ahead of time gets the right people in the meeting. 

Future posts in the Top 10 Fixes for Miserable Meetings series will focus on who to invite to meetings. In this post, we’re going to camp out with the first two essentials: making sure your meeting has a clear purpose and that having a meeting will result in something beneficial. 

Outcome-Based Meetings Focus on Desired Results, Not on the Meeting Itself

The term “outcome-based” was first used in education in the 1980s. The principle is that simply sharing knowledge is insufficient. Instead, educators set goals for what students should be able to do and then select what knowledge to share (and how to share it) so that students will be prepared for exams and can achieve the goals set by the education system. 

Over time, “outcome-based” has become a strategy in many disciplines. You’ve probably heard terms like outcome-based care, outcome-based marketing, outcome-based strategies, outcome-based management, outcome-based service delivery, and more. We’ll borrow from these movements to apply the same principles to meetings.  

In any outcome-based endeavor, there’s planning for the long-term. Looking ahead at goals and future needs helps clarify what’s important now in building toward desired outcomes. This clarity also helps eliminate excessive, non-essential activities that could be distracting. 

Think of it this way. By starting at the end, you can map your route to that destination. When you know where you want to go, it’s easier to get there. 

The problem is that we don’t often think about outcomes when we schedule a meeting. Typical triggers for putting a meeting on the calendar include:

  • We have recurring group sessions and are required to get together at the appointed time. 
  • There’s a problem, and we need to talk about it.
  • Information needs to be communicated and disseminated. 
  • We need someone else’s input before we can proceed on our own. 
  • Someone needs to know what others are working on.

With those vague prompts, we book meetings. What happens in those meetings? Typically:

  • There’s a hodgepodge of random updates, minimal discussion, and little change produced.
  • Problems are admired but not solved. Oftentimes, the same problem is admired over and over again in numerous meetings. 
  • Announcements are made, a few lukewarm comments or questions surface, and people go back to the work. The deeper discussions happen in “meetings after the meeting” in smaller groups and private conversations that diminish what was shared rather than reinforcing it. 
  • Discussion happens and conflict erupts, dividing the people that ought to be collaborating. OR discussion happens and false harmony ensues, with no one being genuinely committed. Lip service in the meeting doesn’t produce action when it’s over. 
  • Report-outs are given by each member of the team. When not speaking, others are multitasking and wondering why it has to be this way. They feel micromanaged and don’t see how what others are doing is relevant for them. 


This is why so many meetings are miserable. It’s why so many people dread attending meetings. 

Outcome-based meetings are different. 

When everyone knows the singular, stated purpose of the meeting, they will see the relevance. They will come more prepared and will participate more. The meeting will be more efficient and more effective in “moving the needle.”

Not Every Meeting Should Be the Same 

You may wish to abandon the word “meetings” altogether. The term is saddled with too much negative baggage. What’s more, it’s non-specific and does nothing to clarify what will happen in the time when a group is together. 

Try these outcome-based descriptions instead:

  • Check Ins
  • Team Huddles
  • Briefings
  • Tactical Updates
  • Team Building Workshops
  • Progress Reports on Strategic Initiatives
  • Planning Sessions
  • Task Force Analysis
  • Town Halls
  • Rallies
  • Training Workshops
  • 1-to-1 Look Conversations
  • Stay Interviews
  • Development Planning
  • Performance Reviews
  • Ideation Events
  • Focus Groups
  • Problem-Solving Discussions
  • Decision-Making Deliberations
  • Jam Sessions


If one of these showed up on your calendar, you’d know what to expect
. With meetings, it’s difficult to prepare because you don’t often know the agenda behind the agenda… what someone really wants or expects from you. 

Some of these outcome-based gatherings should be regular and recurring for teams that need to stay “plugged in” to what others are working on. Team cohesion and full inclusion are enhanced with these types of meetings. For example:

  • Check Ins
  • Team Huddles
  • Briefings
  • Tactical Updates
  • Team Building Workshops


Some of these purposeful meetings are better suited to cross-functional or sub-group gatherings to ensure movement toward a shared goal:

  • Progress Reports on Strategic Initiatives
  • Planning Sessions
  • Task Force Analysis


Occasional gatherings serve the purpose of unifying larger groups, ensuring inclusion, building “big picture” business acumen, and preparing people for what’s ahead: 

  • Town Halls
  • Rallies
  • Training Workshops


Of course, some of these outcome-based get-togethers are conducted 1-to-1 between a manager and a direct report

  • 1-to-1 Conversations
  • Stay Interviews
  • Development Planning
  • Performance Reviews


The last category is for innovation and continual improvement of processes.  

  • Ideation Events
  • Focus Groups
  • Problem-Solving Discussions
  • Decision-Making Deliberations
  • Jam Sessions


Within each of these descriptive names (vs. the generic “meeting”), you can see a desired outcome. 

When you conduct a briefing, your desired outcome is to inform someone. It’s primarily a one-way delivery of information that needs to be shared. The term signals to participants that there won’t be a lot of discussion, debate, or input needed. It can be a short, to-the-point gathering. 

On the other hand, when invited to a planning session, participants are instantly aware that there is likely to be two-way dialogue, input from everyone, commitments made to post-meeting action items, and collaboration. 

Trying to do both in a single meeting is confusing. Shifting out of planning mode and into a briefing requires participants to pivot out of a participatory mode and into one of listening. That’s easier said than done! 

If you’d like to learn more about each of these 20 types of outcome-based meetings, you can buy the eBook on Amazon or sign up for a course on People First Leadership Academy (after January 1, 2022). You can also work with People First Productivity Solutions and our partners to help your organizational culture shift from miserable meetings to outcome-based meetings that dramatically improve morale and productivity.

Derailed by decision making?   Check out this webinar!

Topics: mistakes in meetings, outcome-based meetings

   
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