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What's Wrong with Meetings?

So what's wrong with meetings? A lot of it has to do with the way they're conducted—the meeting process itself. When groups of people get together to discuss things, it helps if there is a standard conduct, a method for insuring that all factions represented are heard. A standard for meetings is Robert's Rules of Order. Written by General Henry M. Robert in 1876, these rules enforce parliamentary procedure, which came from the English Parliament at that time. Henry Robert was ordered to San Francisco in 1867 as part of the Army Engineers; he found a tumultuous place where various constituents had quite different ideas about how things got done.

Using the United States House of Representatives model, he developed a standard for meeting conduct, not to achieve consensus necessarily, but to insure "deliberation," or "working through" the issues. Inherent in deliberation is the right of the minority to be heard along with the majority, so that decisions are made by a majority of meeting constituents ONLY after considering the views of all persons potentially affected by them. The parliamentary model requires a chairperson who controls the discussion and a secretary who takes minutes, a record of what is discussed and decided. It also requires of participants an extensive knowledge of Robert's Rules.

That's part of what's wrong with meetings. In formal meetings today when Robert's Rules are used (and they still are), the chairperson must be adroit in Robertese, and participants need to be fairly skilled in the process. The Rules bring an accepted order to meetings, but some people view this as an encumbrance to expression. Another part of what's wrong is that this meeting process isn't suited to solving problems informally by collaborating, working together on complex issues that are interdependent. However, other protocols do not have universal acceptance.

A lack of standards for meetings makes conflict difficult to resolve, creates dilemmas when decisions are made without input from those affected by decisions, and makes leading a productive meeting difficult.

The meeting process you are about to learn shows the way to conduct efficient and effective meetings. You will learn how to prepare for and conduct meetings so that problem solving is done with spontaneity and decision making is direct and objective. Having learned these skills, you will be viewed as a leader with merit while being perceived as empathetic and humble. Your secret—knowing that process determines outcome. By controlling the meeting process, you CAN determine what will happen. Effective meetings produce sound decisions, and organizations run on decisions at all levels.

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