Working together – meeting expectations
An inevitable outcome of being a consultant is that you spend a lot of time in meetings, collaborating with people you have never met before to understand what they need and then provide solutions. I have been in the consulting business for nearly 40 years and in almost 40 countries. I would prefer not to even begin to estimate the number of meetings I have participated in. Despite a long history of probably thousands of meetings many stay in my memory because of the quality of the meeting and the resulting quality of the outcomes. These gave me a real pleasure in working together with colleagues and clients.
What I now see is organisations seeking to enhance the process of collaboration by implementing ‘collaboration technology’. Levels of adoption are not as high as was anticipated, and now organisations are resorting to implementing multiple collaboration technology applications in the hope that a cocktail will be more successful in meeting employee requirements. Although organisations express concern about the poor quality of collaboration there is rarely any attempt to quantify what the barriers are to improving collaboration. Looking back at my own experience, especially over the last few years, the problem is not about a lack of technology but about poor quality meetings. If we go to a conference, which is just a large meeting, we expect to be able to complete a form that enables us to rate the experience. We would be very disappointed not to be able to do so. Go back down the scale of meeting size and consider when there was any attempt by your organisation to systematically assess meeting performance, especially virtual team meetings.
In my new report Working Together (free to download) I present the results of research projects into physical and virtual meetings together with my own observations on meeting management. A major global study of virtual meetings showed that participants felt that leaders of these meeting were performing poorly. Respondents who were leaders rated their own abilities quite highly. I know of a global pharmaceutical company that runs a two-day course on virtual team leadership and does not allow managers to lead a virtual meeting until they have taken the course. In my opinion that is a standard for good practice. Can your organisation match it?
I also consider the role of collaboration technology and present some very interesting (but virtually unknown) research from IBM on how to define requirements for collaboration technology. I also set out a possible structure for a collaboration strategy that is not technology-focused, presenting these applications as playing a crucial role between meetings but not in the way in which a meeting is conducted. Squeezing all this into a 16 page report was a challenge. My objective was to offer a different and complementary perspective to the current discussion about the effective use of collaboration technology. With good meetings and good technology the outcomes of working together should meet all expectations.