Tic-Tac-Toe or Checkers - What Rules Do Your Teams Follow?
Take a look at your calendars and consider the number of meetings you have each week. Can you say that you go through most of those meetings and 100% finish on time and in each of those meetings you get 80%-90% of the agenda items covered? While getting all this done, can you say that 100% of all meeting attendees get a chance to participate? I can. Just tweaking a few things about your meeting will make a significant difference in your organizational culture.
You often walk into meetings thinking you know the agenda, understand the goals, or expect certain decisions to be made. However, more often than not, you come out with more tension, less clarity about what to do next, and the meetings went over time, so you end up rescheduling the next meeting. In these meetings, you spend too much time just trying to figure out what people are saying and understanding, determining who’s responsible, and voicing your assumptions and concerns. By the time you’re done, you’ve covered 1 or 2 agenda items from a list of 8 items.
Let me give you a simple activity for your meeting teams to think about. This activity will demonstrate some strategies to help your meeting teams better understand the rules of engagement.
- Pass a sticky note to each attendee.
- Give them the direction to draw a game on the note. Provide about 10 seconds.
- Ask everyone to name off what games they came up with.
- What you will find is, some came up with: hangman, tic-tac-toe, Pictionary, connect four, or nothing at all.
What you should have learned as a leader is that while giving directions like “draw a game” is an action, it doesn’t help the team function together. In fact, as a leader, you should be providing everyone a sticky note with a tic-tac-toe board already drawn. If you provided each of the meeting team members this sticky note, everyone would be more clear on how to start, who goes when, and how to complete the assignment.
Once your team gets used to playing tic-tac-toe, you would be able to introduce more complicated games like checkers or chess. Imagine if you gave your team this board. They would know what to do because you’ve developed the predictability in your team that I describe in my “Start With Predictability to Build Trust in Teams” post.
When you improve the quality of your meetings it will change the culture of your organization.
- Meetings shouldn’t go over time - people have other places to be. There is a negative ripple effect when meetings go over. If you want to reduce organizational hierarchy, understand that your meeting isn’t more important than any other meeting.
- Know what game you’re playing - are we providing updates, making policy decisions, brainstorming, assigning accountabilities, etc. Each of these should have rules or protocols that allow the meeting to move through them quickly. When we know how we’re supposed to operate, we can get it done much more quickly.
- Work on the meeting not just projects - use the check-outs as an exit-ticket to see how to improve the next meeting. Meetings should be a place where we learn to work together in more and more complex scenarios. If you don’t improve how you meet, you won’t improve the work.
Trying some of these recommendations will initially feel uncomfortable. That is expected. When we try to undo old habits and learn new skills it’s always uncomfortable. That’s how you know you are learning. I tell all the people reading my book, “The New School Rules”, educators can’t work any more hours nor can they work any harder. The only way we are going to get more done is by working better. Meetings take up a ton of time and if we can get more out of meetings, I’m positive we can achieve more of the goals we set forth to make our schools, students, and communities grow.
About Anthony Kim
Anthony is the author of "Personalized Learning Playbook, Why the Time is Now", and his new book, "The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools". He has contributed to many other publications on new school models including Lessons Learned from Blended Programs: Experiences and Recommendations from the Field. Anthony is a nationally recognized speaker on personalized learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, and numerous other research reports. His work includes partnering with districts across the country who are implementing personalized and blended learning through Education Elements. Beyond implementing personalized learning models, Anthony focuses his research on organizational design and culture of innovation at school districts. Though this research, he is currently working on a new book, called Responsive Ed, which bring self-organization strategies to districts so that they can be more responsive to the changing needs of the community. Anthony is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in San Francisco.