How to Organise the Perfect Decision-Making Meeting
A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.
Rita Mae Brown
Decision-making meetings can often conclude without any decision being made; thus, leading to a group of frustrated attendees feeling like their precious time has been wasted. The reasons for these outcomes can be due to the attendees being unprepared for the goal of the meeting. They have not received information about the issue under discussion and often feel ill-equipped to deliver a final decision based on limited knowledge.
If participants don’t feel ready to make the decision, the group call could end up being an information-sharing session only. At other times people take a viewpoint and won’t budge, which can stall the process. Many people find making decisions incredibly difficult. At the end of it all, no decision gets made, and another meeting has to be convened.
To find out more about the key to success for a decision-making meeting, we organised a webinar with Kevan and Alan Hall, the authors from Kill Bad Meetings. Check the recording:
The Essential Agenda
To execute a successful decision-making meeting, you need a well thought out agenda that is sent ahead of time. This is to make sure everyone is on board with the right information and expectations. You must distribute it at least three days to one week ahead of time depending on the amount of preparation required. For high-profile attendees, they could be notified several weeks in advance. A great agenda could encompass an icebreaker, restating the goal, choosing the frame and criteria of the decision, how the decision will be taken, suggestion gathering, short list suggestions, final decision and feedback.
Time Limits and Tools
Set a time limit for each section. An intelligent icebreaker can be used at the top of the web conference call to get the team interacting and engaging.
You can make use of the conference call service tools like screen sharing, virtual whiteboard, chat and the recording feature to get the most out of the session.
Also, ensure that only the people directly involved in the decision are on the call, so you don’t waste anyone’s time. They can always listen or watch the recording after the decision has been made. The only other people who could be on the call are note takers or selected process observers.
Who Gets to Make the Final Decision?
Before you begin with the categorising, you must decide on how the decision will ultimately be made –majority vote, unanimous agreement or designating one person to make the final determination. If you get everyone’s buy-in on the decision-making procedure, you will get their full agreement at the end. You need to make sure of the number of people who will be part of this process from start to finish and not add in any additional people in the middle of the call. You do not want to spend half of the time on a recap.
Expectations for Participation
There are different formats for a decision-making meeting: information-sharing session, seeking input for an upcoming decision or making the decision. If you want your team to engage optimally in the audio or web conference, you need to inform them of your expectations for their participation. Should they be there to listen and witness the process, give suggestions or be actively part of the decision-making process? If you are not clear about what you require from them, you can create a situation where attendees are irritated because they thought they were there to listen but were supposed to offer input.
If you’re only calling the meeting to offer updates on the decision-making process –send an email.
Going for Goals
What is of primary importance is to set the purpose or goal for the meeting beforehand. Without a goal for the decision-making meeting, it will end up being very long with conversations veering off in all directions. When the whole team has bought into the assigned meeting goals, ahead of time, the process will be a lot smoother.
Goal, Frame & Criteria
You’ve defined your goal: e.g., Holding an annual sales conference
Now you need to frame the particular decision around the goal: e.g., Which venue should we use?
The framing allows the group to determine the options available such as:
The team will also decide on the criteria to compare the various options on the table. Ideally, this process should take place at during the meeting. But if time is a factor the criteria could be defined in advance by the organiser. e.g.
- How many people the venue can accommodate
- Options for breakaway rooms
- Award dinner venues on site
- Catering options
- Onsite parking
- Proximity to airport
- Exhibition space
- Customer reviews
Choices are the hinges of destiny.
The next phase of the meeting is where each person gives a short list of their ideas. All participants will first offer their suggestions separately, and from there, the organiser will choose a short list from everyone’s lists. If you opt to brainstorm together at the moment, you will get stuck debating each option and never get a short list, let alone a final decision. Making use of web conference screen sharing can come in handy for this type of meeting. Participants can pre-prepare their short list suggestions and lead the rest of the team through the selling points of each of their ideas.
Once you agree on the shortlist, you can execute the decision.
Indecision becomes decision with time.
Always end the decision-making web or audio conference with a call for feedback. What did we execute well in the meeting? How can we improve for the next session? You can also mention that the next virtual meeting could be about how actually to act on the decision that has been taken. When team members feel that you value their opinions and they were free to express their viewpoints, you create unity and positivity. This group will also embrace the chosen decision easily and will work to carry it out effectively because they were part of making it.
A decision-making meeting can be carried out as audio, web or video conference call including team members from across the country or the globe. Decisions can be made easily by remote teams due to the advances in conference call service technology.
Never Decide in a Meeting?
There are clear strategies that can be employed to ensure that your decision-making meeting goals get met. There is a school of thought that says, never use a meeting to make the actual decision. The idea is to conduct one-on-one meetings with people on the team and then have a group call to own the decision that has already been made.
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