If You Really HAVE to Run a Meeting

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If You Really Have to run meetings

This page looks at few more symptoms and offers suggestions on ways to improve the effectiveness of your meetings using a facilitated approach. The best way is to attend the LGA 'Make Meetings Work' training course.


"Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance"

Enough has been written on this, we will not labor the point.

 Process and Tools

This section focuses on process steps and techniques which have been found effective in the meeting forms that require ideas to be generated and gathered from a group and then processed in some way to reach conclusions. (sometimes known as the KJ Method or Language Processing).

The major contributing factors to inefficient meetings are:

  • meetings are sometimes used when they are not appropriate

  • the planning for the meeting is inadequate

  • the level of communication is poor

  • no visual record is made of the discussion as it proceeds

  • there is biased or inadequate control over "who speaks next"

  • there are few mechanisms available to resolve differences of opinion

  • there is no mechanism for adjusting the "rules of play"

The process steps and tools described here are based on the factors listed above. We address here the following critical issues:

  • the low level of communication

  • the inadequate control over who speaks next

  • no (common) visual record of the discussion is accessible to all participants (this hampers contributions)

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The facilitated approach is "Fine in Principle" but will it work for me?

There are numerous examples of the facilitated approach being used to great advantage but there is always the "But it didn't work in our organization" or "It won't work in our organization" 

A number of  organizations have received training in the facilited approach to running meetings but have failed to implement the method effectively. One reason is the company does not  "embrace it with enthusiasm" and another is that the "critical mass" is not present. By this we mean, that to bring about change of this sort in an organization it takes a certain (critical) number of people to support the idea to make it work. If support is below that critical number the innovation will not be adopted.  One implication is that sending one or two people on a training course and expecting that to work is wishful thinking.


Another common mistake is to expect a person who has just attended a training course to become a "guru facilitator" overnight. Such skills do not develop in one training session.  The development of such skills  takes practice,

preferably in low risk situations, especially  at the start of the skills aquisition process.

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Dealing with difficult people and situations.

We must acknowledge that difficult people and situation exist. Several techniques can be used to deal with these situations. If you have such situations call us immediately, we can help.

Groupthink, The Abilene Paradox and the Cape Cod Syndrome

All these problems are associated with a failure to communicate effectively. However, they each have very different results.


Groupthink is when members of a group tend to resist offering views that differ markedly from the "norm" of the group, and fail to speak up when they do not agree with a decision made by the group or the group leader.

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Groupthink leads to...

  • A very limited range of viewpoints being taken into consideration

  • Significant factors viewpoints not being taken into account in a situation analysis

  • A limited range of possible solutions to problems being considered

  • Incorrect assumptions being made about those outside the group

  • Shortcuts being made to otherwise sound decision making procedures

  • Incomplete analysis of information

  • Erroneous conclusions not being questioned

  • Non-optimum decisions being taken

  • Non-optimum profits being made

  • Non-optimum working conditions prevailing in the organization

  • being exposed to litigation detrimental to the organization

How to avoid Groupthink

  • Avoid "gunning down" dissention among meeting participants

  • Praise and encourage lateral and free thinking

  • Appoint one or two "Devils Advocates"

  • Hold back "big guns" from giving their ideas first

  • Take steps to make the members of the group hetero rather than homogenous - encourage participant diversity

  • Build meeting conditions that support gathering "open" opinions

The Abilene Paradox

When a group of people decide and act in a way that is contrary to their real desires we have the Abilene Paradox. 

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In this case members of the group make decisions and vote for action based on what they believe other members of the group want. The desire to "go along with" the perceived group wish is greater than the desire to do what they, as individuals, believe to be the "right" decision.

The Cape Cod Syndrome

When a group of people have difficulty in making a decision to the extent that by the time a decision is reached there is insufficient time to pursue most of the discussed options, we have the Cape Cod Syndrome.

Sometimes there may only be time to pursue one option, which renders the discussion redundant. In the extreme case, there is insufficient time to pursue any of the discussed options.

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Send mail to jeplewis@gmail.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: March 01, 2006