How much of your life have you wasted on pointless meetings? Do you tend to find yourself saying: ‘This meeting was extremely useful!’ or asking yourself ‘What on earth am I doing here?’. Don’t worry, I have every confidence that you don’t truly waste your time, and make sure to work on something else during those apparently collaborative sessions that are too airy-fairy, or that simply don’t seem relevant to you.
In these cases:
- You are not as effective as you would be if you were fully focused,
- You may potentially miss important information,
- You risk being caught off guard if someone asks you a question, and then you’ll be the one wasting everyone’s time.
What do you think? If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about so far, I’ll save you some time: this article probably isn’t relevant to you. On the other hand, if you feel that the collaborative sessions that you organise or in which you participate deserve a little more time and energy, I will continue with my goal of showing you a method for thinking about these moments in the best possible way: the 7Ps framework.
The supposed benefits of not preparing for a meeting
There is always a reason why things stay the way they are. What makes only being a little prepared feel like a good idea?
- Saving on time? The message sent out here is essentially ‘my time is more valuable than yours’, and I’m not sure that this is a great strategy to have.
- Not wanting to make waves? Things are done as they always have been done, protecting egos, and avoiding thorny issues and conflicts by allowing vagueness. Running away from conflict is one of the primary causes of team dysfunction. Conflict is used to move forward and build together, running away from it is a refusal to move forward.
- Not planning any deliverables, even if only a CR for the next steps. After all, we all like to voice our knowledge, to show what we know (though not what we can do); you could say that here we are following the example of the Ancient Greek philosophers. And then, if you change your mind, all you have to do is look surprised and say that you had clearly stated what you meant. This is a mode of operation that encourages conflicts to arise, trust to be lost, and makes the basis of cooperation more than fragile.
The aim here is not to draw up an exhaustive list, which would be endless. Something that is finite, however, is the number of categories within a framework; something very useful for the subject at hand.
Prepare your meetings and workshops using the 7Ps framework
To help prepare for these sessions, there are several options. I have chosen to speak to you here about the 7Ps framework. The 7Ps framework is based on 7 different axes to be taken into account:
Download the 7Ps framework with example
What are we doing here? What led us to need this workshop?
These questions will help you define the objective. This should be the base, the starting point of each collaborative session.
Pro-tip: It’s never too late to clarify this point as a guest. Do not hesitate to ask the question, even at the very beginning of the session. If you feel you’re in the dark, you’re probably not alone. It will also be an opportunity to add meaning to a meeting, rather than simply waste time.
Who are the people needed to help with this topic? Whose absence would prevent the point being made? Who will take part? Will everyone play the same role?
These questions make it possible to anticipate different scenarios:
- Having to postpone a decision because someone is missing when you have all worked to achieve a goal
- There being more participants than necessary
- Having to re-explain things
- Listening to people who bring nothing to the subject or who simply repeat what has been already said; this tends to slow down the pace and exasperate everyone
These situations can leave a more than bitter taste, with the feeling that the moment will not have been effective. Optimising a collaborative session means making sure you have the right people in the right number.
Pro-tip: do you know the two-feet rule? If you don’t contribute or learn anything, then you may as well leave and go somewhere else – this will bring more value to you and to others.
What is the deliverable or output you want from your workshop or meeting? What do you need to achieve at the end of your collaborative session in order to feel satisfied?
Sometimes it can be a simple action list with actors and completion dates. Arriving at the end of a session and not knowing what is next, or allowing a blur of expectations and achievements, is one of the top two things to avoid in order to keep the commitment. And it’s not second.
Pro-tip: Do not hesitate to summarise progress and the next planned steps before closing a meeting.
What mechanism should be put in place to achieve the expected results with the desired participants? You know the purpose, the people attending, and the desired deliverable of the workshop; now, how do you make it work? How will this moment be organized, what will be on the agenda, and what activities will be included?
It is easier to plan what to do when you know what you want to achieve and with whom, but that’s not to say it’s simple. You have to be curious and constantly adapt to be fair in what you suggest and offer, while being careful to respect your agenda as long as it is relevant.
Pro-tip: do not hesitate to have your agendas challenged by a second pair of eyes and brain to help pick up on the wood you can’t see for the trees.
What do you need to prepare in advance to make this an effective and optimal session? Do you need the participants to learn about a topic or prepare something on their own?
The first question is ‘what do I need to prepare’, implicitly this indicates that there is always something to prepare. Whether it is the 7Ps framework, or even the instructions to be communicated, links to be sent, templates, etc., time is precious, so give yourself extra time for exchange through effective preparation.
Pro-tip: Good preparation conveys the following message: ‘I have put the effort in to ensure that this time together is optimised for all of us, your time is precious and so is the experience we will have together.’
From a purely logistical point of view, what will you need? What logistical elements will we need (room-booking and layout, timetables, lunch, projector, post-its, flipchart, whiteboard, markers, etc.)?
Whether you’re meeting face-to-face or remotely, you will need to book a time, a room, and possibly pens, sheets, posters, breakfast, and more. Let’s be in the best conditions to be able to work.
Pro-tip: Even if you are meeting remotely, remember to book a separate room anyone on site – a nice touch to help make sure that everyone is in the right mood.
Are there pitfalls or risks that could undermine what I want to achieve? If you haven’t thought of any, think a little more. What can you put in place to manage and plan for them?
Having a Plan B can help. By being aware of your objectives, your agenda and the people present, some possible undesirable events or scenarios may come knocking at your mind’s door. Accept them, observe them and think about how to render them harmless.
Pro-tip: If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself at an impasse during your collaborative session, you have the right to end it by making it clear that you could not achieve the desired result and that you will work on it again in peace and quiet, rather than grasping at straws.
The 7Ps framework: gradual adoption
I grant you, preparing so much in advance can be frightening and put off many people. Our first instinct will be to say to ourselves that we would then be spending too much time in preparation and that it is not necessary. Often, this reaction is a defence mechanism to stop us having to face our own shortcomings. I invite you to let your guard down. Without having to fill in the 7Ps framework, ask yourself the few questions shared as a reflection, as a kind of training to become better, rather than a scolding teacher.
Furthermore, just because you’ve filled in the 7Ps framework, this does not mean that the information is good or that you will succeed in facilitating your meetings/workshops. On the other hand, it will lead you to ask yourself questions about what you are doing, the meaning of your collaborative sessions and, with a little practice, to the continuous improvement of your ability to prepare.
Taking this approach means giving yourself the means to do things well, without having to shake things up all at once. Step by step, you can work on your preparation, and why not also on your facilitation, communication and conflict management skills. If done well, this approach can encourage your peers to do the same and thus prevent you from falling victim to an acute case of meetingitis. It is simply a gateway to many other concepts.
So what’s your first step?
As I’m nice, here is an example of the 7Ps framework in practice to inspire you: