Digitalisation & the future of meetings
Digitalisation will enable us all to see our organisation’s meetings more clearly, and will radically improve how they work.
Key to this will be an effortless system of meeting metrics which will inspire and guide their development.
Digitalisation will transform our meetings and their impact on our business and our people. But the shift required is not purely technological.
Let me begin this talk with the end in mind, and ask you: Have you ever had a really good meeting? One that was productive, aligning, creative, inspiring, energising, … ? I hope so, because that is what meetings should be like.
But the reality for most people is that, many of the meetings they attend fall a long way short of this. And the result, from the attendee perspective,is often wasted time, loss of energy, frustration, slow progress … and a detrimental effect on the culture. [Article on Meeting effectiveness]
At the same time: the world grows increasingly complex and uncertain; employment and working patterns are shifting; relationships now extend over greater distances, … and all these things further increase the number of meetings.
But they don’t improve them, and so we increasingly find ourselves with our senior and most capable people, with full diaries, working excessive hours, often under stress, and still not finding the time to fully bring their talents and insights to bear.
However, digitalisation, brings us opportunities to think about meetings differently. Migrating to a virtual environment does a lot more than simply negate distance, enable remote-working and reduce travel. It gives us the opportunity to reflect back on the purpose of meetings and to rethink the [wealth of options: Link to tools matrix & a paper or excerpt for MbD] technology brings for delivering the insight, commitment and energy required of good meetings.
Much of this technology is already proven, available, and immediately practical. And has been for some time.
Now, to be frank, we have not yet taken those opportunities. The reality is that, to date, we have largely, and unthinkingly, recreated our current paradigm of meetings into the new medium and sub-optimised both.
And this illustrates a key issue. Despite a wealth of ideas to improve meetings, many of which predate digitalisation by decades, our default ‘picture’ of meeting remains very antiquated.
Part of the reason for this is semantic. The word ‘meeting’ is a ‘verb’ but we tend to think of it as a noun, we refer to ‘a meeting’ and in doing so, we subconsciously fix its form in our minds-eye, and we take ‘how it works’ for granted. For many of us, meetings just ‘are’. They are a bit like breathing, they are our ‘go to’ response, they just happen, often without clarity of what or how they are to deliver.
Improvements do get adopted for a while then, when the attention shifts, meetings tend to return to their default settings.
But the power of digitalisation is still available to us, if we choose to grasp it. And seeing meeting as a ‘verb’, as a process, is our first step, because, the reality is, we are very good at improving processes. So much so that the performance of our other business processes are virtually unrecogniseable to what they were a few decades ago.
So what can we learn from our remarkable success in transforming other processes?
The fact is, our success began, and was sustained, through data. That data enabled us to actively manage improvement. The truth is, no process has ever been sustainably improved without data.
The reason Meetings do not improve is because we lack the data to effectively manage that improvement, in large part because of the difficulty of gathering such data. But digitalisation has changed all that. Over the last few years, digitalisation has unobtrusively amassed much of the data and the tools we need as a result of other developments. The result is that we can now, effortlessly: Gather a picture of meetings and timespend from our calendars; capture feedback on meeting effectiveness via mobile apps; empower local improvement through analysis and bite-sized solutions; and maintain an overall picture to track progress and sustain improvement.
The reality is that we already have much of the data required for our meetings to take the same transformative leaps as our other business processes, with all the attendant benefits. With help and support from the Siemens’ Business Excellence community, Inspirometer has spent the last 24 months piloting just such a system and we have all learnt a lot about what works, and what doesn’t, along the way.
The evidence is clear. Digitalisation will transform our meetings – providing we are willing to take responsibility for facing up to how they work.
“Our future requires that each of us is inspired and empowered to be the best that we can be, and that the relationships between us nurture and support us to live up to our potential. Key to this is better meetings, and key to that is data.”
Juergen Maier CEO Siemens UK&I
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