Qualities of Effective Meetings and Good Teams

Qualities of Effective Meetings and Good Teams

Team meetings are important as a source for decision-making, consensus building, and problem-solving for TPM/TPR Equipment Improvement Teams. The following are some rules in conducting good meetings.

Attention To Content and Process
To accomplish work in meetings, members must agree on what they will be discussing, as well as how they will be discussing it. Separating the content (the what: topic, agenda item, issue, or problem), from the process (the how: method, technique, approach, or procedure), is essential for effective group work. The importance of agreeing on content is often more easily understood than the importance of agreeing on process. However, agreeing on process does not have to take a lot of time. It may be easily accomplished by agreeing with a member's suggestion to "list all the facts we know about a problem before looking for solutions", or "dividing up into groups of three to list our concerns with a task before we discuss them as a total group", or "let's approach this as if we were designing the ideal presentation and worry about the limitations and realities of the situation later." In other instances, the group may discuss several approaches before agreeing to use one. The point is, effective teams attend to both content and process and gain agreement on both before they start to work on a problem.

Clear Roles, Agenda, and Outcomes
An effective meeting needs structure and leadership. Someone must be responsible for convening the meeting, focusing members' attention on the topic at hand, summarizing what has occurred, reconciling disagreements, ensuring that all members are heard and understood, and maintaining an open, balanced, and productive give-and-take among members. Someone must be responsible for recording the team's ideas and developing a set of accurate minutes that include the action items and decisions of the team. Someone must be responsible for developing the agenda for the meeting, adding items as needed, and clarifying the intended or desired outcomes for each agenda item. Effective teams perform these various tasks routinely by appointing specific individuals to them and including all members on these tasks on a voluntary rotating basis. The important feature of these effective groups is that during their meetings the various roles are clearly determined, agreed upon, and used by the team to accomplish its work.

Follow Through and Checking Progress
Productive meetings are action-oriented. That is not to say that the team does not take adequate time to discuss problems thoroughly. However, once a problem has been analyzed, the team turns to determining the actions it can take to remedy the situation. Group discussion leads to action and it is expected that group decision will be carried out in a timely fashion. If the team decides to gather additional information, initiate a holding action, or respond to a problem in some other way, members know that the item will become the focus of a future meeting and the issue will continue to cycle through the team's meetings until a final solution is achieved. Effective teams check their progress in this way and maintain a sustained effort on selected issues. Additionally, effective teams will attend to their own process in a proactive way - taking time to check members' perceptions about the productivity of their meetings, the efficient use of time and resources, and the satisfaction of members' interactions and work together. In many skillful teams, the final few minutes of the meeting are spent "debriefing," that is reviewing the content and process of the meeting, making suggestions for improvements, and acknowledging one another's contributions and work. Simply asking what went well and what should we work at improving can be an excellent source of information for process improvement.

Shared Responsibility and Ownership
While effective teams have clearly defined roles for individual members as described above, they also mutually share the responsibilities and tasks necessary for productive meetings. Members come to meetings expecting to actively participate, share ideas, give opinions, elicit information and opinions of others, offer process suggestions, summarize team discussion, listen to others, ensure that each member has a chance to be heard, clarify differences, and seek acceptable solutions. Members view their meetings as important opportunities for information exchange, joint problem-solving, coordination of effort, and satisfying affiliation with others with whom they share a common future. They view their meetings as "theirs," encourage and facilitate the participation of other members, and are not afraid to confront other members if their actions are inhibiting effective work. Finally, they view team decisions and risks as shared and they seldom shift the responsibility for a poor decision away from the team and onto a particular individual. In other words, they view the content, process, and outcomes of their meetings as their own and they use meetings to further the success and productivity of the team.

As we have shown, working on the team is as important as working for the team.

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