I'm new to a project which has a large and diverse IT group (business analysts, developers, quality assurance, technical architects, project managers, ...) with different technical backgrounds who have been in a tough project for over a year. I "think" I'm seeing people talking at each other and not with each other. People seem to have their own talking points that they want to get to in meetings (I've heard several of them over and over again). They also say they understand what is going on but when a meeting ends I have trouble getting people to agree on what was actually decided.

So I am looking for some leading questions I can ask in meetings to make sure that the team is on the same page. A couple of my fallback phrases I use when I'm not sure what is being asked:
"Hey XYZ, what I think I hear you saying is ..."
"Hey TSR, I'd like to re-phrase what you said to make sure I understand. ..."

I'd also like to do questions to the rest of the team to make sure that they can explain it in a way which shows they actually understand and aren't simply saying "OK" so they can move on from the meeting.


P.S. And let's not forget the long quiet when we ask who's stepping up to work on an item.

timrutter's picture

You might like to try an Action Items or Deliverables list at the end of your meeting. A brief run down of who is doing what and by when. Also, you can follow up in your O3's mid week.

As for continually raising the dead in meetings, that's just good old fashioned feedback.


scm2423's picture

Use feedback for this too after the meeting to make sure the people see this behavoir and its impact.

"Hey TSR, can I give you some feedback?  When you continualy state that the widget has to be deloyed by May 1st without taking into account XYZ's concerns, it looks like you are not willing to accomidate the needs of others on this project.  What can you do differently next time?"

Its good that you looking for tool to help here but will the tools change the behaviour?  Have the peole been doing this so long that they do know they are even doing it anymore?  Do they know the impact?





mrreliable's picture

Good response by timrutter.

Whether business or volunteer organizations, meetings have always been a pet peeve of mine. Most meetings are a blah blah blah fest and a waste of time, with decisions supposedly made, only to be completely forgotten about as soon as everyone walks out the door. The person running the meeting needs to lay out and communicate the parameters, procedures, methods of accountability, milestones, and measures of success.

Communicate how you're going to run the meeting so you're not looked upon as a power enthusiast. Let the participants know the method is meant to make the meetings shorter and more productive, they'll appreciate it. Don't include agenda items that ask for vague, general thoughts on issues, or at least keep the brainstorming to a minimum so those who talk the most don't end up dominating the conversation. Don't be afraid to say, "Good idea, but we need to get back to the topic," because you'll be doing that a lot at first.

Instead of just trying to help clarify the ideas expressed, require that the ideas meet certain standards. A half-hour meeting run tight will be ten times more effective and less brutal than a two-and-half hour free for all. Develop a culture of "be brief, be brilliant, be gone." Otherwise you'll spend the meeting watching participants take turns chasing each other down rabbit holes, peppering the discussion with, "A guy outta do this; a guy outta do that," and a feeling that once the meeting is over, it's over, rather than being the beginning of something.