Showing posts with label Meetings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meetings. Show all posts

October 19, 2018

Parking Lot Full of Ideas

So conducting large meetings is not often easy. 

People have their own concepts as to where they'd like the discussion to go.

Yes, agendas help keep the meeting focused. 

And a good facilitator enforces meeting discipline. 

Some people think that any deviation from the agenda is like taken a sudden left turn or driving off the cliff. 

But you don't want to throw away the baby with the bath water. 

It's important to jot down good ideas or follow up questions that come out in the discussion even when they are not immediately relevant. 

That's where the "Parking Lot" comes into play. 

A flip chart or whiteboard to capture the important thoughts for follow up afterwards. 

While parking lots are needed to take certain things off the table immediately in order to focus on accomplishing the meeting's objectives, they are not junk yards for people's input. 

Instead, they are a place to park the stray thoughts and then to actively follow up on these after. 

No question is a dumb one, and no idea isn't worth considering. 

Parking lots can be full of these and they should be parked and then taken for a spin around the neighborhood.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 27, 2018

Calling An ELMO

So this is an interesting meeting facilitation technique. 

Sometimes people get carried away in meetings either as broken records, spinning wheels, naysayers, or ever with verbal attacks.

In these case, either the facilitator or any of the other participants, can have permission to "call an ELMO."

What that stands for is:

Enough,
Let's
Move 
On

When someone at the meeting calls an ELMO the meeting is redirected and focused back to the agenda and meeting objectives.

There are also times, you need a "parking lot" for good ideas that are a little offtrack or for sidebars that you want to come back to later.

At other times, you just need to say, "Let's take it offline."

Focused meetings should generate ideas (brainstorm), exchange points of view, surface problems, discuss issues, and make decisions. 

A good meeting leaves people feeling energized, valued, informed, and productive. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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July 24, 2018

Bored Meetings

So it's been raining so much here in the DC area lately.

The result is that the hot Summer July temperatures are down in the cool 70's and the rain is flooding everywhere. 

When I got in the elevator this morning, someone goes to me:

"Did you see the leak in the hallway?  They are watering the tree with it."

And sure enough, there it was!

When all this rain finally stops, there is going to be a lot of cleanup and repairs to do. 

The other thing was yesterday, we were on the way to a board meeting in our synagogue. 

In the elevator, are two other people--a man and women--carrying binders.

They say to us:

"Are you going to the board meeting?"

Surprised, because I didn't recognize them from our synagogue, I respond affirmatively and ask to clarify:

"Oh, you're going to the board meeting too?  I don't recall seeing you there before."

Then the elevator stops and they start to get off--but it's to a different board meeting for the building.

When they see that we're going to a different floor, they start laughing:

"I guess we're going to different board meetings!"

I say:

"Yeah that's right, different board meetings, but we'll all probably be bored!

Another laugh by everyone, and we we're all off to the races. ;-)

(Source Photo:  Andy Blumenthal)
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June 29, 2018

Don't Worry--Be Happy!

Happy Friday everyone!

Yesterday, someone gave me a couple of these bright yellow smileys--one on the back of each of my hands. 

I was going around waving these happy faces all day.  

Of course, sitting in meetings was a little weird with these on, but then again, maybe that is part of setting a colorful and happy tone. 

It's funny how a little smile sticker can make the whole world seem right again. 

Maybe we can learn to live life, love life, and make the most of every single day. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 1, 2017

The Games People Play

The title sounds ominous, but I mean it differently.

People like to play games--the type you have fun at.  

We learn to play when we are kids. 

We get the attention of our parents and friends--and we have fun just being together, acting silly or even competing with each other. 

Whether it's over a game of Life, Monopoly, Risk, or Connect Four, or even these days going online with a game of Minecraft or Crush.

Sports is another type of game--great to play and others like to watch and cheer for their favorite teams or athletes. 

This week at work, someone said to come to his meeting because:
"...everyone would have fun."

Have you ever heard that at work--a fun meeting or for that matter anything being fun in an office setting?

The guy is a genius--people actually showed up in droves at the meeting. 

They had to choose between various meetings going on at that time--and low and behold, people chose this one that was going to be fun!

In the meeting, there was a big bowl of candy and chocolate in the center of the conference table.

And the mood was relaxed as we got down to some business. 

While we did the business, people felt free to be a little silly and laugh with each other too.

The tone had been set for some fun.

The person who hosted the meeting explained that he wanted people to have a good time coming to the meeting (and to work).

He called it "gamification."

The idea is why not make things into a type of game and have some fun with it instead of everything being so stuck up and nasty all the time. 

Listen, it was still a meeting and work had to get done, but it was nice to see a different lighter perspective put on it. 

People want to enjoy what they do--whether it's time with their family, friends, or why not even their work.

If we can make more things in life into a game of sorts and put "fun" into the equation of what we do--people smile, laugh, and let down their guards a little. 

Why shouldn't adult play games and have fun too? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 22, 2016

Wouldn't You Like To Be A Govie Too

Some people have a negative perception of government workers ("govies").  

They think that it's just a cushy job with a lot of free time and benefits. 

Sort of like the photo above with the lady streched out over her laptop, eyes half shut, and with the lightbulb above her head--thinking up great ideas for running the government and regulating the people. 

Ah, no--it's not like that at all. 

Okay, maybe a little for some people. 

Having been in both the private and public sectors about 40-60 of my career, I can tell you that there is plenty of unproductiveness (i.e. dead weight) wherever you go. 

But there is also a lot of hardworking (some super hardworking) and really smart people too. 

Yes, there are meetings (lots of them) and paperwork (piled high), but there is also a good amount of out-of-the-box thinking and trying to figure out how to do more with the same or less.  

There is also some really big thinking like how to win the next Big One (i.e. war), how to protect the country from deadly terrorism, disasters, weapons of mass destruction, and cyber attack, how to partner with others around the world to achieve big ambitious projects and peace, how to colonize outer space, protect the environment, and improve the economy, healthcare, education, and so much more. 

Not all the big thinking is good thinking--some of it is unrealistic, biased towards this or that constituency, counterproductive, or even corrupt. 

But many govies really do want to do a great job and save the world!

If you think there isn't plenty of hard work, passion, dedication--you're wrong.

If you think, everyone is doing the right thing for the right reasons--your delusional.

Like with people all over the world, there's a mix of good and some not so good, but overall, there is lots of opportunity to lead, problem solve, and do good and great things with real effect, nationally and globally. 

And if for that alone, being a govie is an amazing career move where you can have an influence on matters of tremendous importance and lasting impact. 

Wild perceptions and pictures can be deceiving--instead think about the hero that you can and want to be. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 27, 2015

Creation and Time Management

This is a photo of a beautiful embroidery.

It is called "Creation" by Leonard Nierman. 

Really liked it!

Also, wanted to share something funny I heard from a colleague about time management (as learned at DoD).

It doesn't have to do with creation being 6 days and on the 7th day, G-d rested and it was good. 

Rather it had to do with being on time (or not) as follows:

"If you're on time, you're late.  If you're 10 minutes early, you're on time."

Wish that was standard fare. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 20, 2015

Death To PowerPoint

Ok, we've all heard of "Death by PowerPoint" (well, I'm advocating death to PowerPoint).

It's the unfortunate occurrence that happens when a speaker presents a wad too many slides (OMG, some people seem to go on and on forever--get them off that podium)!

Or when they present too much information, too little information, or just don't know what or how to present at all. 

Their (slide) presentations leave the audience basically wanting to just kill themselves, if not the inconsiderate S.O.B. speaker.

But aside from lousy speakers, you have a crappy presentation mechanism, which is PowerPoint slides.

Hello out there, tell the truth...

Can any of you remember much of a darn thing that anyone has ever conveyed to you by PowerPoint?

Think of webinars, conferences, and meetings galore with slide after slide of 2-dimensional boredom.

Is your head hurting you yet or are you just glad you can't remember any of it--natural selection of memory saves you the pain...why thank you.

Then consider what someone has told you in great thoughtfulness, confidence, or with genuine passion, caring and sincerity.

- Perhaps, the wisdom of a parent or teacher who took you aside to tell you a life's lesson.

- Or a Rabbi or Priest who shared with you something spiritual and uplifting to guide you on your path.

- How about someone in the office who was passionate about an idea or project and who motivated you as well.

Most of the communication between people that really means something never makes it to a PowerPoint slide.

Imagine for a moment, if something meaningful was conveyed to you by slide presentation--you would think, how ridiculous it is to use PowerPoint for that?

- I love you--will you marry me?

- We're having a baby, how wonderful. 

- Just got that promotion, yes!

- So and so is sick or just passed away, how terrible. 

PowerPoint just doesn't happen here in real life--thank G-d!

And no matter how much organizations such as TED would like to make a (show)business out of presentations using PowerPoint...(ah, nope).

Real communication happens when one person talks from the heart to another person who receives it in their heart. 

The greatest orators in history...never used a slide presentation.

Other presentation products like Prezi tried to take slides to the next level with a storytelling format using a virtual canvas, but that didn't pan out to well either...see many Prezis lately (and without getting dizzy)?

PowerPoint slides, and the like, are for distraction...now I don't have to pay that much attention to the rambling, numbnut speaker anymore.

The bottom line...we don't listen with our eyes!

Rather, we hear words of wisdom and see when someone is genuine, sincere and worth listening to.

The rest is PowerPoint... ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris Pirillo)
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January 30, 2015

Going To War, In The Office

So occasionally in the office, people perhaps forget where they are...

And instead of working together to solve problems, they go to war with each other and make more problems. 

Yes, there are power politics and plenty of my slice of the pie versus your slice of the pie--whose slice is bigger, whose got more cheese and toppings, and whose slice is pipping hot. 

Most often these office controversies happen behind the scenes or closed doors.

Behind the scenes, you can't see the knives violently slashing and behind paper-thin closed doors you (usually) can't hear the screaming!

But every once in a while the "passion" of the work spills over into the public domain--sometimes in a meeting, hallway, cafeteria, or the even the company picnic. 

In all these cases, the professionalism goes out the window way too fast and out comes the drawing of lines in sand, the I'm right and you're wrong (including wagers for a good lunch or even maybe a nice crisp $100 bill), and threats to escalate (as if this wasn't ugly enough already).

What comes over people in the moment--perhaps they simply feel like they are in the right or that they are simply defending themselves, or maybe there is spillover from problems at home, ego at play, socialization issues, or even personality disorders.

Whatever the reason, as one of my best friend's fathers used to say, "When 2 people fight, they are both wrong!"

Or some people say that "they both end up with black eyes"--even if one comes away worse than the other...

And I think if you've ever had a car accident with another driver, you would know that the insurance companies agree with this principle, and attribute some portion of blame to each driver--whether 50/50 or 99/1--everybody plays a part whether in an accident, dispute, or an all out brawl.

What's interesting watching these unfold is how the participants are almost in their own world with everyone else as bystanders, sort of just fading into the distance--so they do everything wrong:

They speak emphatically in absolutes (and maybe even yell a little), cite chapter and verse (but from different books), name drop (ever bigger executives in the organization whether they really know them or their positions on the issues or not), name call and make personal digs, and perhaps--although it should absolutely never come to this--get physical (like slamming their portfolios, coffee mugs, and doors, or I heard one person who even threw something at their colleague).

Aside from these folks typically losing the argument and whatever they were after, what's worse is they lose everyone's respect, and maybe even their jobs. 

The arrow of the workplace fight shoots way up, and comes down hard and fast right in their behinds...it's a stupid, but endlessly painful and deserved ouch.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 16, 2015

Where Did I Put That Action Memo?

Lots of people desks seem to look like this.

(Not me though...compulsive neat freak and learned from IBM's "clean desk policy" early on in my career.)


In analyzing our fight against Islamic jihadists and terrorists, Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal writes: 


"In all the photos published of al Qaeda, Islamic State or any other terror groups, have you ever seen them sitting at desks?"


Henninger points out the root of "Bureaucracy" is the French word "Bureau," which mean desk.


Hence, we in the West are stuck behind our desks, while the terrorists are actively working to destroy our freedom and way of life--smashing down doors and wielding AK47s and suicide vests!


We've got to stop hiding behind our piled-high desks, analysis-paralysis position papers, endless meetings, and political bickering, and actually do something concrete, meaningful, and strong--to not only deter, but destroy the enemy!


Fear of making a decision or nonsense claims that your still searching for that action memo is something that should get you uprooted from your messy desk with a boot up your a*s!


Wake up, wake up, wake up--enough ho hum, we need some leadership that is bold, patriotic, and heroic to protect what we value so dear.


Don't you think it's time to win this war for real?


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Shawn de Raaf)

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September 11, 2014

Okay For A Drive By

So, having grown up in New York, I've definitely heard of a drive by shooting, but never a "drive by meeting". 

Until a colleague asked me, "Okay for a drive by?"

A little taken aback, but I was available (and figured not in any imminent danger by his type of "drive by"), so I agreed to meet for a few minutes. 

The meeting was quick, like a car whizzing by, but we discussed what was needed and accomplished the immediate goal. 

Personally, I prefer when someone is driving the meeting, rather than having a drive by meeting, but we all need to be agile to whatever the day brings. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 24, 2013

Me and George

So one of the advantages to working in Washington, D.C. is that I get to meet lots of new and interesting people. 

Never thought though that I'd actually get to meet George Washington.

Well, he was certainly quite the character!

Anyway, three cheers for GW--it was a true honor. ;-)
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November 18, 2012

When All Is Not Green




Are their programs successful or not, is everything okay on their staff, will they--without fudging the numbers--meet their performance goals and targets (if they have any), and so on. 

People are afraid if they made a mistake or something isn't working as intended that they will be in trouble.  

Maybe they will be yelled at, lose authority and power, be sidelined, demoted, or even fired; and their organizations may be downsized, outsourced, consolidated with another, or outright eliminated. 

So people hide the facts and the truth--as if, what they don't know, can't harm me.

So everything appears copasetic in organization-land!

But the truth is we need a solid guidepost to know where we are going, which paths are safe, and which are fraught with danger--and that is anchored in open and honest communication. 

There is a great story about this in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (15 November 2012) about how in 2006, when ex-Boeing executive, Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford--and Ford was bleeding red ink, facing their largest loss for automobiles in history of $17 billion, that at the executive Thursday morning meetings, the performance scorecard for their initiatives "was a sea of green."

Here the company is bordering on financial collapse, but the executives are reporting--all clear!

The story goes that Mark Fields, head of Ford's North American business stepped up and showed the first red revealing a problem with a problem tailgate latch on their new Edge SVU that would halt production. 

With the room filled with tension, Alan Mulally rather than get mad and castigate or punish the executive, what did he do--he clapped!

Mulally said: "Great visibility. Is there anything we can do to help you?"

And what ultimately happened to Mark Fields, the executive who told the truth about problems in his area of responsibility?  

Last month, "Ford's board elevated him to chief operating officer," which analysts read as a sign that he will be the next CEO when Mulally is supposed to retire at the end of 2014.

The bottom line is that we cannot fix problems if we can't identify them and face up to them with our people. 

While we need good data and sound analysis to identify problems in the organization, problems will remain illusive without the trust, candor, and teamwork to ultimately come to terms with them and solve them.

I love this story about Ford and think it is a model for us in leadership, communication, and performance management. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 18, 2012

Meeting Busters, Come On Play Nice

The Wall Street Journal (16 May 2011) had a interesting portrayal this week of the various types of people that tend to spoil meetings. 

From low to high on nuisance level, these were as follows:

1) Jokesters--"cracks jokes, appropriate or not." 

2) Ramblers--goes on and on and often off topic.

3) Dominators--dictates to others with their opinions.

4) Naysayers--derails progress with negativity.

5) Plotters--passive-aggressive undermines decisions.

From my experience, I would add a few others (in no particular order):

6) Politicians--focuses on coming away looking good instead of on resolving issues. 

7) Positioners--vies for a bigger piece of the pie, whatever flavor it is. 

8) Honorees--comes to take all the credit, and politely thank everyone for their support. 

9) Bystanders--shows up, but can't or won't contribute anything of value.

10) Bewildered--unsure even why they are here, but were told to just show up. 

11) Malcontents--they are unhappy and they show it, so who cares anymore. 

12) Socializers--shares personal tidbits and whispers about where they want to go lunch or for happy hour afterwards. 

For all the meeting attendees out there, life is not a box of cherries, but you don't have to make it the pits! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Limburg)

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February 5, 2012

Do Business With Good People

Robot_with_a_heart
While most companies run to do business with anyone with a checkbook or credit card, some amazing others are more discriminating. 

In interview on Leadership in the New York Times (24 December 2011) with Ori Hadomi, the CEO of Mazor Robotics (they make robotic systems that aid in spinal surgeries) he states: "You can't afford to working with people are not good people [you need to be selective]...you need to look at your vendors and your customers the same way."  

He actually "told one our salespeople recently that he didn't have to sell our product to people who were not nice to him."

Wow--this is powerful stuff. 

It's not about just the money, it's about the meaning and feeling good about yourself, the organization, and what you are achieving,
Similarly, Hadomi has a different--better--philosophy on the role of the management that typically sees itself as making sure employees get the work done and work hard.  Hadomi states: I believe that my role is not to make people work, but to give them the right working conditions, so that they will enjoy what they do." 

On making mistakes, often a punishable offense in organizations, Hardomi states: "It's natural that we make mistakes."  The main thing is that we learn and solve them for the future. 

With planning and communicating, while many organizations play their stakeholders and stockholders telling them everything is going to be just great--and this often is pronounced when companies reassure investors and others right before they were about to fall off the proverbial bankruptcy cliff.  However, Hardomi tells us that while positive thinking can help motivate people, it can also be dangerous to plan based on that and that instead in Mazor robotics, he establishes an executive as the devil's advocate to "ask the right questions [and]...humble our assumptions."

In working out problems, while email wars and reply-alls fill corporate email boxes, Hardomi cuts it off and says "after that second response...you pick up the phone."  Problems can be resolved in 1/10 the time by talking to each other and even better "looking at the eyes of the other person." 

As we all know, too often, the number and length of meetings are overdone, and Hardomi has instead one roundtable a week--where everybody tells what they did and are planning to do--this synchronizes the organization. 

Who does Hardomi like to hire, people that are self-reflective, self-critical, and can articulate their concerns and fears. These people are thoughtful, are real, and will make a good fit.  

Hardomi sets the bar high for all us in breaking many traditional broken management paradigms--he is paving a new leadership trail that especially from a human capital perspective is worthy of attention and emulation.

(Photo adapted from here with attribution to Gnsin and Honda)

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May 13, 2011

Who's On First

I have a new article in Public CIO Magazine (April/May 2011) on the topic of Accountability In Project Management:

We've all be to "those" kinds of meeting. You know the ones I'm talking about: The cast of characters has swelled to standing-room only and you're beginning to wonder if maybe there's a breakfast buffet in the back of the room.

It seems to me that not only are there more people than ever at todays meetings, but meetings are also more frequent and taking up significantly more hours of the day.

I'm beginning to wonder whether all these meeting are helping us get more work done, or perhaps helping us avoid confronting the fact that in many ways we're stymied in our efforts.

Read the rest of the article at
Government Technology.


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