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MEETINGS: NOTICE, AGENDA AND MINUTES
Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything . A thousand cups of wine do not suffice when two friends meet but half a sentence is too much, when there is no meeting of minds - Chinese proverb - J.K. Galbraith
I am prepared to meet anyone but whether anyone is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter. - Mark Twain
If communication is the lifeblood of the organization then meeting is the heart and mind. Meetings are strange animals. Everyone call for them, everyone attend them, and everyone is highly critical of them. Meetings are the place where we communicate our ideas, hash them out, share our passions for better or for worse, and develop new understanding and new directions. It’s where deals can happen or fall apart, where strategies are articulated and debated. In short, meetings are where we engage with other people to discuss past, present and future. Meetings are a important vehicle for communication. They bring into play different goals and perceptions, force of personality, contextual constraints, questions of power and authority, even the primitive human need to feel included, heard and valued. Running and participating in meetings are two of the toughest managerial tasks to do well. Meetings can consist of anything from two colleagues who have unexpectedly dropped by your office to large formal gathering of decision makers. A meeting is often the place where an individual finds out if he/she is included in the community and where they stand in the pecking order.
In 1990 Fortune magazine guesstimated (estimate based on guesswork and calculation) that there were 25 million meetings worldwide on a single day. Five year later, Alan Barker (Making Meetings Work) estimated at 50 million. Extrapolating we should be doing unimaginable numbers today. The latest figures say that daily 11 million meetings are held in the US. Now consider the following two phrases: “Two heads are better than one” or “Too many cooks spoil the broth”. So which of these is valid? The Negative Side Researchers are finding that meetings are actually poor places to be creative. It is not that you are dumber but that you lose your creative edge. They find that when an idea is placed before them the group is more likely to go along with it. People have a harder time coming up with solutions. When a group receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times an option is mentioned aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options. Interesting Quotes A meeting is a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary. When you don’t want to commit yourself, committee yourself. A gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide nothing can be done. The best committee is of two with one absent. If you want to get a thing done, give it to one man; if you don’t want anything done, give it to a committee. One either works or meets; one cannot do both at the same time. When two men in a business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.
WHY MEETINGS? A meeting may have any of the following objectives: Arrive at a consensus Solve problems/disputes Understand the situation Decision making Advantages Permit multiple and different points of view. Benefit from the experience of specialists. Democratic way – everyone speaks. Encourages lateral thinking for acceptable solutions. Decisions get more support. As technology develops there is more access to information available. Disadvantages Time-consuming and expensive [ex: USA, South America, India]. No useful conclusions sometimes. People take meetings lightly People attend without preparation. Therefore the quality of the meeting goes down We shall divide our discussion on meetings into 2 distinct parts: Documents for a Meeting Get feedback Collect ideas Learn and train Review progress Inform and explain Plan for future Distribute work
People involved in Meetings
Documents for a Meeting
An official meeting in supported by several written documents and these must be prepared carefully. Usually, the Secretary of the Meeting, in consultation with the Chairman, prepares them. The most essential documents are; Notice, Agenda, Minutes & Note of Dissent. In addition to these there may also be notes and background papers related to different items on the Agenda. NOTICE OF THE MEETING Definition: Notice is an announcement in writing that a meeting will take place, for what purpose, where and when. If members have to come from different places to attend the meeting, longer period of notice is required. Meeting rules lay down the number of days of notice required to give for a meeting. If a meeting is expected to go on for a long time, it is customary to indicate in the Notice that tea/lunch will be served. It must be sent to those who are expected to attend. Requirements: Title of the body/group that has to meet (Marketing, Study Group) with a serial number for this meeting. Names with designations of participants’ expected/invited to attend. Day, date and time of the meeting. Rough indication of the time frame. Specific place and location.
If the Agenda is ready it must be attached. If not, mention when it will be sent. If there was a previous meeting, then the Minutes of this meeting must also be attached. If not, mention when it will be sent or if it will be brought to the meeting.
AGENDA OF MEETING Definition: Agenda is a list of items to be discussed in the order in which they are to be taken up (beginning with the call to start and ending with the adjournment). It is usually sent as an attachment to the Notice. Sufficient time must be given to all who will attend to come prepared. Requirements: Title of the body /group. Date, time and location of the meeting. Each item should be numbered. Apologies from members who will be absent.
Approval of Minutes of previous meeting, if held. The minutes of that meeting need to be
approved and signed by the Chairman and Secretary.
Matters Arising from the previous meeting: This relates to matters that have
subsequently arisen to review the progress. List of new specific points to be discussed. A good sequence for this would be: 1. Routine matters that are best cleared early. 2. Urgent matters 3. Non- controversial matters – less debate 4. Controversial matters
Any other business: that may be raised by any member after sending of the Notice.
Date of next meeting, if possible now or intimate later. MINUTES OF MEETINGS Definition: Minutes are the official record of the discussions and decisions taken at the meeting. The Secretary of the meeting drafts them in consultation with the Chairman of the meeting. They follow the same sequence as the Agenda. They are a legal document and can be produced in a
court of law as evidence. Why? Responsibility would need to be fixed on individuals in case of any failure. Consider also that: • Minutes not a verbatim (word by word) record. • Emotions are not included. • It must be a clear, concise, accurate and well-organized summary. • Each item must have the same serial number and heading as in the Agenda. Contents: • Main points discussed • Conclusions reached • Recommendations made • Record of what was decided and done • Tasks and deadlines given to individuals or groups to fix responsibility . Requirements: Title of the body and number of this meeting. Date, time and location. Names of Chairman, Members present, Members absent (with their apologies) Names of persons “In Attendance”. These are any invited officials, auditors, lawyers, experts and consultants who have been invited for their special inputs, advice and recommendations. Apologies from people who were absent Details of the meeting - item wise as per the Agenda sequence. If a member has a suggestion or amendment to the Minutes, the Chairman would include that with the approval of the members and then sign. Vote of thanks to the Chair. Signatures of Chairman and Secretary of the meeting only after all members agree that the Minutes are correct.
At the next meeting, the Minutes will be read out by the Secretary of the Meeting. If they had been sent to all the members these are taken as read. The Minutes are then approved by a voice vote and signed by the Chairman and the Secretary.
People in a Meeting
CHAIRMAN of the Meeting What is the origin of the word Chairman? In the olden days the most important person sat on a high place or a chair while the public (aam junta) sat on the floor or stood around him. Lately, since even ladies have begun to occupy the chair and the title has become Chairperson or simply Chair. This Chairman is not the Chairman of the Company but a participant in the meeting who has been selected from among them for the purpose of control. He also contributes to the meeting as a participant. Requirements Appoint someone to be the Secretary of the meeting to write the minutes. Get the Notice and Agenda of this coming meeting & Minutes of previous meeting (if any) circulated early by the Secretary to help all to come prepared. Open the meeting by introduction Pass on the discussion and ensure participation by all. Should talk as little as possible (not more than 20% of total time). Should allow disagreement. Control time and members. Never pose as the boss but see that clear responsibilities and deadlines are assigned. Accept that all are invited to contribute. Do not allow it to get personal, emotional and out of hand, get stuck or be limited to two or three persons. Stick to the Agenda
Summarize decisions at the end. Close the meeting Decide the date for the next meeting. Post- meeting, coordinate with the Secretary to see that a draft of the Minutes is prepared.
SECRETARY of the Meeting
The Secretary is also a participant of the meeting and has been selected by the Chairman to assist in conducting the meeting. If you should, in your early years at work, get an opportunity to be a Secretary, accept the responsibility. Not only will the training do you a lot of good but it will give you the right kind of experience and exposure in front of your superiors to show them how efficient you are. Requirements
Prepares the Notice & Agenda and sends it to all who are invited to participate. If there was a previous meeting, includes the Minutes of that meeting.
Checks whether all have received these and will be able to attend.
Maximum participants are required (quorum) or else fix new date to one that is acceptable to all the members in consultation with the Chairman and informs all.
Asks for anything to be added to the Agenda and requests sending in writing.
Includes any notes, background papers or files to be added to Agenda ahead of time
thus giving everyone sufficient time to study. Rechecks if all participants are coming. During the meeting records the proceedings (not verbatim) but take notes. As a participant expresses his views also.
After the meeting prepares a rough Draft of the Minutes, gets it edited by the
Chairman and prepares the final Draft. Then sends copies to all. Checklists the following: 1. Writing material (note-pads, pens, pencils).
2. Sound and projection equipment 3. Seating and water arrangement.
PARTICIPANTS Participants are of two types: those from within the company and those who are invited from outside. The ones from the company are those who have any relevant contribution to make to the Agenda of the meeting. Those from outside would be specialists (lawyers, financial experts, consultants) who have been invited to assist in clarification of issues in their relevant fields. Requirements Do their homework and study all items, even background papers. Ponder on all points and come prepared. Consult other participants on issues.
Read Minutes carefully for any corrections or amendments.
Be punctual and shut the mobile before entering. Opt for Voice mail.
Accept they are invited to contribute to points that are relevant to them.
Actively participate and demonstrate team player – use opportunity to impress bosses.
Do not monopolize (dominate) nor be emotional.
If wishing to bring up any issues, must give in writing in advance to the Secretary. Build alliances. Colleagues go along with you if you have done the same for them. Not disobey the Chairman. Not interrupt or disturb others but show interest. Dissent politely and be a good listener. A good listener is a good participant. Never personalize a difference of opinion.
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