Monday, May 10, 2010

Effective meetings in a distributed organization

Are you a member of a distributed organization?
I am a member of several:

  • globally distributed corporate work group
  • Professional organization
  • virtual team or work group (dashed line hierarchy) 
  • Volunteer organization
  • School parent group
What these groups have in common is the fact that we work independently toward seemingly synchronized goals, with regular face-to-face meetings and web meetings and teleconferences. A pattern that has risen in most, if not all of them is the fact that our meetings tend to focus on updates and not actions.

It seems that without some sort of hard and fast date or meeting time that we are unable or unwilling to keep abreast of others activities; or keep others up to date on our own activities. With my professional organization, I am the chairman of the community as a whole (with 6 other volunteer leaders) and the chair of a technical group with some 6-8 advisors and a silent majority of maybe 300 dues paying members.

We meet for a teleconference monthly to catch up on our activities (or lack there-of) and try to define activities that we will do for next month, only to find next month that we have no progress and have maybe not even thought of our volunteer efforts until the days before the next meeting.

How do we turn this around?
  1. create a method of asynchronously keeping up to date
  2. Set regularly scheduled activity hours, days, weeks to focus on the plans
  3. force the meetings to be action oriented where the time we spend together presupposes that others must prepare for the meeting to vote or input on discussion items
Easier said than done it appears.
Getting the virtual organization to be value added is a challenge as more people telecommute, and rely on Tele-presence instead of co-location.

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