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29 July 2009

Meeting Me to Death

Isn't it funny how HUGE a role communication plays in your workplace?

If it's missing we say, "There was a breakdown in communication."

If there is too much communication we say, "There are too many cooks in the kitchen."

So how do you deal with communication in your workplace? Meetings, phone calls, texts, IM, Twitter, hallway conversations, etc. How do you manage all that and still stay productive?

At Granger, we've shifted our focus quite a bit. When I first started working at the church it wasn't unheard of to have multiple meetings per day - every day. After all, you need to meet in order to get stuff done, right? Well, as it turns out, you can meet so much that nothing gets done. You come up with all sorts of good ideas that never get realized.

The Issue with Meetings
Here's what it all boils down to. In every company, business, department or church there are three types of people:

  1. The Dreamers: Those that cast vision, see the big picture and have the next big idea. Highly capable of dreaming and speaking but rarely part of the day to day.
  2. The Middlemen: Those who have the ability to add value to the vision and fine tune the big picture while at the same time playing an active role in the follow through. Able to troubleshoot and complete tasks.
  3. The Front Liners: Those that are getting it done. They flesh out the vision that has been passed down in the form of task lists and project scopes. Able to get numerous things done each day but typically stay out of the big picture stuff.
Sound familiar? Can you lump your people into these three categories?

What we did at the beginning was grab everyone on the team for every single meeting. Problem is, the Front Liners were getting stressed out. Not only were they being pulled off the assembly line for large amounts of time, but in the meetings they got to watch their task lists grow!

The Solution?
The Dreamers now have more high level meetings with other Dreamers. When they are ready to flesh out their ideas they meet with some of the Middlemen (this includes women of course...). And finally, when it's time to implement, there is either a short meeting where the Front Liners attend, or the Middlemen simply pull the Front Liners aside during the day and walk through the new project, task or process.

The cool thing is that this issue break down when it comes to other forms of communication. Our entire team is connected at any given time via email, text, IM and Twitter (notice I did NOT say by phone). This works well because it only interrupts the work flow if you allow it to. This way you can keep ideas flowing without interrupting the assembly line.

How about you? Feeling "meetinged to death"? Give this new strategy a try and see if it helps.