Productive Team Meetings

6 minute read

Entering the meeting room at 8:30am sharp, Neha, the General Manager of N-1 Consultants, finds all the participants already present. After exchanging greetings, she addresses the team, “We all know why we have gathered here today. We need to make a decision on whether to work with JJ Ltd. I understand that some of us still have some concerns. Let’s discuss and address the concerns together and decide on the next steps”.

“Sid, I believe you strongly feel that we should engage with this client. Let’s first hear from you”, she says.

Sid, the person in charge of the company’s finance says, “JJ Ltd. is looking for a long term engagement with us. From the initial discussions, we can foresee at least two years of work coming our way. They are also offering us much better rates than many of our existing clients. Also, based on the initial discussions, it looks like we might be able to bill a standard hourly rate irrespective of the grade of our employees. This seems like a big win for us.”

Rowena, the Technology Head spoke next. “Yes, we may make good money from JJ Ltd. but I am pretty sure that we do not have enough staff who will be willing to move to this project. Most people in Engineering feel that this work is boring and the technology is outdated. Why would any of them be willing to move from their more attractive projects to this? I feel it will cause a lot of dissatisfaction among the employees which may lead them to quit our company.”

Sara, the Head of Sales, sounding irritated by Rowena’s comments said, “Making resumes look better shouldn’t be the only reason for our staff to work here. Sometimes, we might have to take up projects that might not look very attractive from an Engineering perspective”.
“It helps the company grow!”, she emphasised. “We believe we will win more clients if we can deliver the project with JJ Ltd. successfully.”

“A company is made up of people. If you are going to make a vast majority of the people dissatisfied, good luck trying to grow your company!”, Rowena snapped back.

Neha, calming her team members down said, “All these points are absolutely valid. Taking up this project will definitely help us increase our revenue and win more clients. However, from a technology standpoint, it isn’t attractive and could cause dissatisfaction amongst the Engineering team members.”

Rowena making another point said, “We have seen in the past that when some of the ‘technically strong’ people leave our company, there is almost a chain reaction, and many more quit. I worry that might happen if we force people to work on this project.”

Neha, looking at Ismail, the HR, asked “If we were to take up this project and do not want to impact other client engagements, we would need to hire and onboard at least 10 more people by the end of this quarter. If the attrition rate is more than we anticipate, the actual number of people to hire might grow. Do you think we will be able to find the right talent on time?”

“Let me be absolutely honest”, said Ismail. “The answer is no! Recruiting the right talent has always been a challenge for us. Also, most people join us for the cutting-edge technology that many of our teams work on. With this project, I don’t think we have that advantage either. My views are similar to Rowena’s. This project might do us more harm than good.”

“There are always new things in Tech that the Engineering teams want to work on. When we got them mobile projects, they wanted us to get some IoT related projects next. When we won some clients with IoT work, they wanted something else. This is endless!”, said Sara reflecting on her past experience.

“Apart from feeling that the project might not be challenging enough, is there any other major concern from the Engineering side?”, Neha asks Rowena.
“Based on my discussions with various teams, outdated technology and less challenging work seem to be the primary concern. There was some skepticism about using the client laptops instead of our Macbooks. But that was a lesser concern as compared to the other points.”

“Let’s say that we do go ahead with this new project and move a few people from other projects to this, there is bound to be some dissatisfaction. What can we do to make our staff feel challenged and motivated?” asked Neha, taking the discussion forward.

Ismail chimed in, “You know, we have a lot of these internal projects that we want to work on but never get time to. Would it be okay if the folks could spend a few hours from their week on the internal projects? They can use cutting-edge technologies; and maybe that would act as a good motivation.”

Neha looking at Sid says, “We do need to get these internal projects done. How many hours do you think each person can spend on this non billable work?”

Before Sid can answer, she asks another question to all, “Do you think it’s better to have this for all employees or just the ones working on this project?”

Everyone starts coming up with more ideas about the different things they can do to help improve employee satisfaction.

Neha speaks again, “We have many useful suggestions now. Rowena, take this back to the Engineering teams and have them give their opinion on which option they would prefer. It is okay to have multiple of these running in parallel, but we need to see progress. I will leave it to you to figure out the right number of parallel items that we can run”.

Looking at Sid, she says, “Do work with Rowena to understand how many of these activities we can afford without impacting our financial targets”.

“Also”, she continues looking at Rowena again. “The teams need to know that we are going ahead with the JJ Ltd. project after knowing their sentiments. We will work closely with them to help them overcome any challenges. Since we are connected with the CxO’s of JJ Ltd., it might be a good opportunity for us to influence their product and processes. That should be something our Engineering consultants look forward to. Do schedule a meeting with different teams, and I will be there to answer any of their queries.”

“Noted”, said Rowena.

“I believe I have everyone’s buy-in. Do I have everyone’s commitment to this decision too?”, asks Neha.
“Yes”, they all say.
“My opinions have been heard and I accept this decision. You have my full commitment, and I will do my best to have the Engineering teams see value in this decision too”, added Rowena.

“Thank you. Let’s meet again next week and you can share the updates from your action items”, says Neha and the meeting ends.

Even though we would want our meetings to be as productive as the one in this story, in many instances, making decisions take a long time. Also, getting everyone’s commitment to these decisions is a challenge.
Let’s look at some of the things that worked well for this team:

  • No impasse as there is a clear understanding of who the final decision maker is
  • Trusting each other enough to speak openly about the harsh reality
  • Putting effort to understand everyone’s perspective
  • Managing anger, acknowledging the merit of understanding different opinions
  • Making effort to come up with alternatives even when it initially appears as a binary choice
  • Working together to come up with options to mitigate the negative consequences of tough decisions
  • Getting not just a buy-in but also a full commitment once a decision is made
  • Leaving the meeting with concrete action items

Next time we walk into a meeting, let’s pay attention to these points and look for areas to improve and make our meetings more productive!

Thank you Fiona and Sreekrishnaa for your inputs.

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