Why this executive liked online meetings

AshtrayDuring one of the workshops at Intranet Reloaded in Berlin  we talked about how to motivate people to use their digital workplace. What really triggers them to change their working habits?

I remembered an example from when we were rolling out Microsoft Live Meeting (yes, this definitely was some time ago 🙂 ).
Our senior managers were flying across the globe all the time for face-to-face meeting, and we wanted to save the business time and money by providing an online alternative.

One of our vice-presidents had a “monthly results” meeting every month with about 25 country managers. They all had to turn up at Head Office for few hours each month, to discuss their financial and market results.
I talked to him and his assistant about the options and if they were interested to give it a try. Of course our team could help them with the first meetings, so they did not have to test this alone. Both he and his assistant liked the idea so we ran a few tests to make them more comfortable.

On the “first monthly meeting new style” I sat with him during the first few sessions to make sure everything was running smoothly, also on the other side of the line.
After the first two meetings had gone successfully he lit up a cigarette.
He leaned back with a big smile on his face and said: “I love this. Finally I can have a smoke during these meetings”.

You see, we had just banned smoking in the workplace. (Did I mention this was some time ago:-)? ). The only room where he was still allowed to smoke was his personal office. Nobody dared to forbid it there.

There’s all kinds of motivation to change behaviour. This was an unexpected one and if I had not been there, I would still think that saving time and money would have been his only incentives…

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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No more meeting minutes!

NoMeetingMinutesWhen I visit “collaborative” sites, e.g. for a team, a department or a project, I often find a document library called “Meetings”, or even worse, several document libraries, each for one particular meeting date. These generally contain documents for prereading, presentations from the meeting, agenda and minutes. And sometimes they have an action or decision list as well.
The good thing is that these meeting documens are now in one clear online location, and that (hopefully) sending documents via email and printing are reduced.

But now think again. It is 2013.

  • Do you still store everything in document format, while there are ways to do thing directly online?
  • Do you have to open multiple Meeting Minutes or Decision List documents when you are looking for that one decision from early 2012, but forgot the exact date?
  • Is there still someone responsible for writing down “refer to next meeting” for several agenda items in the Meeting Minutes, and then remembering to add them to the next meeting agenda?
  • Are you still emailing various draft agenda’s to your team?
  • Does someone in your team have to collect the progress of the action list and recreate the new Action list?
  • Do you have to chase everyone for approval of the meeting minutes?

A different approach.

It may be time to move to a simpler process. Of course there is the Meeting Workspace, but sometimes you prefer to have everything in one site. The MW will also no longer be supported in SP2013.  An alternative is the Meeting-Agenda-and-Minutes List, combining agenda, meeting minutes and decisions in one list. Our team started this in about 2002 and we have happily used it for our weekly team meeting for years.

The concept is as follows:

  1. Everything you discuss is first an agenda item. The owner of the item creates and manages it themselves.
  2. All items not marked as “completed” are visible.
  3. The meeting owner adjusts the order of the agenda items just before the meeting.
  4. During the meeting, the item is discussed. We always had online meetings, so we viewed items on-screen. The item owner can adjust the item while discussing, and show the updates to the team.
  5. After discussing the item, the decision and date are added to the item and the status is set to “completed”.
  6. All completed discussions are stored in one or more “completed” views, sorted and grouped as needed.

Example.

Does it sound complicated? Let me show you the (Custom) list that I have worked with.

This is an item on the agenda:

New Agenda Item
This is the item to discuss.By default, status is “New”.

This is the agenda, sorted on “Order” and filtered by “Status is not equal to completed”.

Agenda
This is the agenda for the upcoming meeting.

During the discussion, the relevant info and decision are captured in the bottom fields of the item.

During Discussion
During discussion, the relevant information can be added.

This is the view that shows all items that have been discussed. You can easily filter for specific topics, regardless of meeting date. Of course you can also group on other metadata, but this view clearly shows the increased transparancy compared to Meeting Minutes in document format.

Completed
All decisions from earlier meetings, grouped by discussion date.

Of course you can simplify or extend the list to fit your own meeting style and goals.

What are the advantages?

  • No need to send agendas via email; if everyone sets a notification you wil get a message when a new item has been added or changed.
  • The meeting owner can easily adjust the order of items
  • During the meeting, the item is open and any next steps can be added straight away
  • When something is not discussed or no decision has taken place, it simply stays on the list. You do not have to specifically state that it is “moved to the next meeting”.
  • One archive of individual decisions means you do not have to look through documents by date. Now that you have one “online database” it is much easier to find any decisions relating to your topic, since they can be found by date AND by creator AND by tag if you have used those.
  • Everyone has seen the decision so there is no need to circulate any meeting minutes for approval.

Will this work for all meetings?

Of course this needs change management. If your organization is relying heavily on documents, not used to PC’s and projectors in the meeting room, or has been pampered by people sending things to them, this will be a big change that will need discussion, training and an extensive trial period.
It may be wise to measure time involved in the current meeting setup beforehand and to compare that to the new setup. This information will also help you to convince others.

For some meeting types this setup may not be appropriate. There may be legal requirements to have documents, perhaps even printed, with handwritten signatures, or some external participants may not have access to your SharePoint environment.

But for your average team, department or project group meeting, this may save lots of time!

Have you used something similar? Please share!

Note April 2013:  Gene Vangampelaere shares his use of OneNote for meetings. Nice!

Training in a web conference

TrainingAlthough this example is actually about Live Meeting/Lync and not about SharePoint, is does illustrate my point that you can do more with your existing toolset than you think!

What was the problem?

One of our content experts needed to train about 150 people across Europe. She had always visited each country when there were a few people who needed training, but she was now looking for an option that would save time and money.

An official e-learning module was rather expensive, especially if it was for only 150 people.  Also, only an external person would be able to make adjustments to the module afterwards. And she did not need all the functionalities of a dedicated Learning Management System (LMS).

So we had to think of another way to meet her needs.

What is the solution?

We decided to use PowerPoint, a Team Site and a standard Live Meeting (web conferencing) with poll and recording functionalities.

To make her feel comfortable with the tool, we helped her with

  • setting up a meeting with the desired options
  • sending out custom invitations
  • creating and managing polls
  • handling the Q&A panel
  • looking at the meeting reports (attendees and poll results, which would serve as her “LMS”)
  • creating a  recording
  • a “dry run” to fix any functional issues she might encounter, and to give feedback on other aspects of the training
  • attendance at the first session to make sure she felt comfortable and could focus on the content of her training

The PowerPoint, the training schedule and the recording were stored in a Team Site, along with other content on the topic.

TraininginLiveMeeting
The different parts of the training

 

 

PollinLiveMeeting
The different parts of the training

 

 

What are the benefits?

Of course this saves her time and money, but also

  • All trainees can easily access the training, since there were no password barriers.
  • Doing the training via Live Meeting enables her to have personal interaction with all attendees. This would not have been possible with an e-learning module.
  • The interaction and discussions are much richer than in her one-country-trainings, since every session attracts attendees from different countries.
  • New employees have a faster learning curve because they can watch the recording as soon as they need it.
  • Giving this training several times, and analyzing the poll results, allows her to continuously and quickly adjust the training to the needs of the audience.
  • She can make any changes herself – it just needs an update in the presentation and a new recording.

So, once again it shows you do not always need a lot of fancy new shiny software to be able to meet your business goals! Check what you already have at your disposal, use your creativity and off you go!

Do you have a good example of using web conferencing? Please share it!

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.