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Holding Meetings 16 Jul 2007 11:13 am

Topic 6: Holding a Meeting (Opening Act on Employee Evaluation)

Bill Caldwell has kindly agreed to give a presentation on Employee Performance to start us off for this month’s FNC Roundtable.

For his presentation, he has provided us with three documents, which you should feel free to download. We will be asking someone at each location to have the slide show on the screen during his presentation.

We’ll see (hear?) everyone there on Thursday.

Holding Meetings 13 Jul 2007 11:31 am

Topic 6: Holding a Meeting (Get out of jail free)

Well, time is getting short before we have our meeting on how to have a meeting (does that seem a little odd to anyone else?).

Three items today

  • Think about what the different reasons that we hold meetings. Why do we meet? While we talk about how we “hate meetings”, we get together almost instinctively, for lots of reasons. We stop by people’s offices, gather in the halls and huddle around whiteboards. What are those reasons, and how do meetings help us?
    • Figuring things out
    • Coordination
    • Sharing information
    • What else?
  • Should the reason for a particular meeting have something to do with how the meeting is conducted (including who holds it, how long, who is invited and so on)?
  • Think about all the reasons we hate meetings. What is it about them that gets under our skin?
    • Is is about about “not getting any real work done?”
    • The presentations are too long, too boring, too unfocused?
    • I am not engaged? Why not?
    • I’m afraid not to be there, but know I am not contributing anything (see this example from Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive. You will have to pardon his language. Just substitute “person” for “man”. Peter Drucker: Meeting Example)
    • What else?

While you are working on those three things, I am attaching a very nice slideshow that talks about some very good steps for assuring effective meetings. I think you will find it very helpful. We will use it as part of the outline on Thursday.

It is called Get Out of Jail Free: How to Run Effective Meetings. Right now is a great time to down load it and check it out. (It is really, really short.). The link is below.

Get Out of Jail Free/How to run effective meetings

While you are at it, what better way to start a meeting than with a reference to a Dilbert meeting, like this one:

Holding Meetings 05 Jul 2007 08:11 am

Topic 6: Holding Meetings (Agenda Detection)

Wait. Is posting about the same topic two days in a row too much?

I’m not sure, but I think you will find this posting really interesting. I am assuming that you have already read the Rands in Repose posting from July 3 about “taking time to think“. His observations about taking time to think describe an important type of meeting (the “brainstorming” meeting) .

Here he just talks about meetings in general in Agenda Detection. I think it more or less tells it all about our own frustration with meetings (and what to do about it). Give it a look and see what you think.

We will be talking about “agendas” at our “meeting” on July 19th. That is the real date, by the way. I make a mistake in my e-mail and said July 18. Sorry about that.

Holding Meetings 03 Jul 2007 02:14 pm

Topic 6: Holding Meetings

This has to be everyone’s favorite. Meetings, meetings, meetings. What is that get us so excited about attending (or holding) meetings? Isn’t it just like getting to each dessert all day long?

Nay, some say. Not everyone likes to go to meetings, hear about meetings, even think about meetings. Why is that?

Are we thinking that attending a meeting is not the same as getting work done? Is that the same as feeling that when you are “getting work done” that we have some control over your environment, but you don’t during a meeting? What about the fact that it is hard to pay attention sometimes?

To get people started thinking about meetings, click below for a great blog posting about “taking time to think” but has an entire section on meetings that help “take time to think”. I think everyone will recognize much of what “Rands in Repose” is talking about.

Here it is: Taking Time to Think

Have a very happy 4th of July.

Decision Making 15 May 2007 11:47 am

Topic 5: Decision Making (a few last minute details)

Our next topic is decision making.

For those calling in, just as a reminder here are the details

9:45 am PT/11:45 am CT — 11:00 am PT/1:00 pm CT
passcode 180 487

And don’t forget to download these two exhibits. Why they are exhibits for decision making will be revealed tomorrow.

Map of Middle East

Detailed Map of Middle East

Decision Making 10 May 2007 10:27 am

Topic 5: Decision Making (Prisoner’s Dilemma)

The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

What a great way to think about decision making. What a great way to think about being prisoner without actually having to be one.

There are many aspects of decision making, but one important one has to do with “predicting” what others will do. If I decide to do this, how will this person or that person respond (or the “market” react)? If I decide to take up hang gliding, how will my spouse take it?

This dilemma is a good way to think about “predicting” as part of the decision-making process. Of course part of that is, what happens if I do not predict well? How do I take that into account?

We will be talking about this next Wednesday. In the mean time, try to stay out of the slammer (or at least “decide” not to have an acccomplice).

Decision Making 07 May 2007 01:43 pm

Topic 5: Making Decisions (Lemons)

This is a very nice article from a Nobel Prize winning economist, George A. Akerlof

Now, don’t let that scare you away.

It is all about “lemons”, you know, like used cars. How do we make decisions when we are buying something that may have “uncertain” quality or value? If you have a really, really good car, do you think you can sell it for its real value, or will buyers be suspicious?

This is a great way to start thinking about making decisions (or not, I can’t decide…).

Decision Making 07 May 2007 09:38 am

Topic 5: Decision Making (Some Reading Material)

It is always good to start out with some good reading. I think you will find this series from the Harvard Business Review very helpful: Why Bad Decisions Happen to Good Managers

Just in case you think these articles have to take a long time to read and digest–I suggest that just skimming them for the basic ideas will be very helpful.

Back with more soon. Looking forward to our meeting, Wednesday, May 16.

We will start off with Bill Caldwell’s excellent briefing on employee performance evaluations.

Managing a Project 03 May 2007 01:12 pm

Topic 4: Managing a Project (summary)

Here’s the outline we used for Managing a Project. This covers all the questions and discussions we had (and even has an anecdote at the end).

As you could tell, the point of the session was not to explore the formal aspects of project management (other than the triangle: Scope, Cost and Time), but to explore the issues that affect our ability in general to management projects. There are plenty of good materials on the actual process–although the key to most of them is to KEEP IT SIMPLE and not get caught up in the mechanics of the proces–that is one of Joel Spolsky’s points in his materials.

  • How we think about projects
  • How we decide which projects to work on, and in what order
  • How we negotiate with each other about what the scope really is

I also wanted to emphasize the difference between a project and a process.

  • We need to focus more on our process for managing projects, including how much of it we can standardize the process without standardizing the final CMS the client sees. (that is, Standardize on the Process, Customize on the Client)
  • We struggle with our projects as much because of the process as with our ability to manage projects
  • We disrupt ourselves because we do not have a process.
  • If we want to improve, we need to pay attention to our own behavior

Examining Our own behavior

  • We need to understand how we are using our time
    • Not just report time, but track time and understand time
    • Compare the time we actually use to the time we thought we would need
      • how good were we at estimating time
      • how should we be allocating our people so that we have “enough time”
      • Remember Joel Spolsky’s simple chart
  • Understand how much we are spending on each project so that we can decide whether we are spending time on the right projects
  • Understand how we choose which projects to work on, and establish a more rational process for making those choices


To the extent that we have a standard CMS implementation project plan (and can educate our clients about that plan and process) the more we can streamline our own work.

Still, we need to learn better to control the process of settling on the “Scope” of the project if we are going to have any control over the project.

  • We need a process for developing a consensus within FNC regarding the scope
  • We need a process for settling on a reasonably predictable scope of work with our clients that we can all generally live with (understanding that the process of development often reveals places where the scope should be changed).

The final mantras are:


And don’t forget all of your negotiating skills, since those are the most important in establishing the scope and timing of any project.


Managing a Project 04 Apr 2007 06:54 pm

Topic 4: Managing a Project (even more reading)

Here are some more readings. This time we have another “On Point Collection” from the Harvard Business Review. This one is called Project Management: The View from 30,000 Feet. Lots to think about.

In the mean time, you should be thinking about the questions you would like to ask about project management. What is vexing you about your current project? Do we need a swat team to swarm down on projects in trouble (drowning projects)? Would you just be happy if we could get the client to agree to something? What about getting everyone at FNC to agree? What do we do about the “just one more item” on the list problem?

Start thinking about your issues, read the materials and be ready for our next session.

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