In last month's column the focus was on improving meetings by using an agreed upon problem solving model to deal with problems faced by child care agencies. In this column the emphasis shifts to ways and means to involve staff in making recommendations to improve meetings.
A process to involve staff that might work has the following steps:
A. Management should inform staff that they plan to reserve some time at the next meeting to talk about “how we run meetings”.
B. At this meeting use the following six steps:
Staff are asked to write down which aspects of the meeting they think need improving. (Some examples should be provided e.g. the length of meetings, the frequency of meetings, who decides on the agenda, etc) AND which aspects they want to keep and think are useful.
Collect the anonymous notes and post them on a chalkboard or flip chart (you should have one or both at every meeting).
Use a process to help participants quickly rank the items in terms of which items are of greatest importance to them. A simple vote on each item can work.
Then take each item one at a time and assign a subgroup to review the item and come up ideas about why that item is a problem and what recommendations they suggest would address the problems and improve meetings.
Have each subgroup report out its findings
Then test if the rest of the staff and management would be willing to support this subgroups recommendation for a trial period. Or perhaps offer some suggestions to modify some of the details of the recommendation.
C. Make sure to:
Put these suggestions into practice at the very next meeting if at all possible and remember to review these new methods at the end of the recommended period by asking meeting participants to evaluate to what extent these new ways of conducting the meetings are an improvement.
You'll find that these specific changes improve meetings because the staff has had the opportunity to make suggestions and at least some of these suggestions have been utilized. This participatory process will encourage a feeling of ownership of the meetings which usually has the effect the effect of lending energy and commitment to the meeting itself.