Have you ever been in a meeting when a tired topic comes up yet again, there’s discussion, then the topic changes, and you get that sinking feeling that at next week’s meeting the same thing will happen? It seems like you never get any closer to resolving the issue. If so, it is quite possible you have found yourself stuck in a BOGSAT – the kind of meeting where there’s lots of talking but nothing ever seems to come of it. Today we’ll talk about a simple way to avoid this unfortunate situation, so you can get something accomplished for a change.
I’m pretty sure I have some emotional scar tissue when it comes to meetings. Hours of my life lost that I’ll never get back, sometimes endlessly discussing topics that never seem to get any closer to resolution.
An old boss of mine used to call it a BOGSAT: Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table. What he meant was that all the talk wasn’t accomplishing anything. Ever been there?
Meetings are great for collaboration, coordination, and discussion. Getting different ideas, options, and points of view is just what you want to happen. So far, so good. But if you stop there, you have a BOGSAT. In the end, all the talking has to lead to action.
Make a Decision
The problem is that leaders are sometimes hesitant to tell someone to do work. They want to be the nice guy, or they are unsure what to do next, so the conversation trails off until the topic changes; nothing happens.
What you have to remember is it’s the leader’s job to get all the other team members working together as a cohesive whole. It’s what they expect, and you are letting them down if you don’t make something happen.
If it is time to make a decision, make the call (see Step Three of Decision Making). If you aren’t sure about who should do a task, ask for recommendations or volunteers.
And even if you can’t make a final decision on an issue, don’t let the time invested go to waste. Focus on what else needs to be known in order to make a good decision, sort out who can contribute to getting it done, and task them to do it. Now you have someone taking further action to help solve the problem.
“Before we can decide on where to hold the fund raiser, George, we need you to come back to next week’s meeting with a cost estimate for each of the locations we talked about.”
Tag, You’re It
In movies where you see meetings happen, the tasking might sound like this:
“Bob, can you take care of that?” He says, “Got it, Boss” and the camera cuts to the next scene.
That’s a good way to keep the movie dialogue moving, but if you were Bob, what is it exactly that you will be doing again? When is it due? In what format? Who else will help?
It’s a lot more effective if you think in terms of SMART Goals – try to be Specific about what is to be done or delivered, and ensure the deliverable is Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
Bob will have a much better understanding about what he needs to do if the script was rewritten something like this:
“By the meeting next Tuesday, Bob, can you show us three ad examples that we can use for the next campaign?”
Great. Now Bob has a clue, everyone in the room knows what he’s working on, and will expect him to show up with the work done. That’s all there is to it, right?
No, not really. What happens if Bob shows up next Tuesday and hasn’t done the task because he forgot or nobody could remember who was supposed to come up with the proposals….. Now you’ve lost a week and wasted people’s time.
For that reason, it’s important to have a follow up plan. It takes a little effort but really isn’t that hard. When the leader tasks someone to do something, someone should write it down. At the end of a well-run meeting, there might five or ten such taskings about what everyone is going to do and when they are going to do it.
At the end of the meeting, a good technique is to have your note taker read off all the tasks aloud just so that everybody is straight.
You can follow that up by sending out an email of the tasking chart so everyone has a written record of the tasks. Prior to the next meeting, you can even use those tasks to help you develop your agenda, and you can sent it out again in advance just to make sure everyone is tracking.
Now, at the next meeting, when it’s Bob’s turn to deliver, he can be ready to produce what you asked for and you can move on.
It is important to revisit everything you have tasked out, even if it is just to close it out as completed. If you are tasking but no one is doing and you never ask about it again, you are right back to a BOGSAT, a place it’s best not to be. If it gets onto the chart, it needs to happen.
Once you have gotten commitment in public from the person at your meeting and then confirmed it in writing, it is more likely that Bob will come through with the goods for the team.
There are several ways you can manage this process. In the past, I’ve used Outlook tasks as a way to capture all this. During the meeting, the secretary would record the tasks directly onto a shared outlook tasking chart which everyone could see. At subsequent meetings, we merely projected the computer screen on the wall and called for the results for taskings that were due.
But it doesn’t even need to be that fancy. A plain old sheet of paper can also get the job done. Here’s a blank matrix you can print off and use at your next meeting to help you make sure that action follows discussion.
Remember that meetings should have a clear purpose. Often that purpose is to take some kind of action. The job of the leader is to turn discussion into decision and some kind of action, or else you will just find yourself with another case of the BOGSAT blues.
Take a deep breath, get a volunteer, or pick someone and ask them to do the job. Use a SMART Goal approach so he knows exactly what is due, and when. And have somebody write it down and send it out, and follow up.
Download this PDF, take it to your next meeting, and the next time you see a BOGSAT getting ready to start, whether you are the leader or a team member, see if you can get the group to agree on exactly what is to be done, by whom, and when it is due. Your meeting time will be much more productive that way, and you will find your team getting a lot more done. Good luck!
Question: How can you use technology to establish this same process?
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