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The "Meat" of the Meeting: A 3-Step Process

In the preceding articles, we talked about the opening and the closing of a meeting.

See these previous entries:
Getting Your Meeting Off to a Good Start
Clear Ground Rules Support Good Process
A Meeting Closing That Leads to Action
Completing a Good Closing

Now we want to examine the steps that comprise the "meat," or the task, of the meeting.

People often want to leap directly to a discussion of their solutions to a problem or to creating a long-range plan of steps to be taken. Instead, they need to focus first on defining the problem and the goal. A simple 3-step process will help all members of the group hone in on the real issue.

  • Clarify the problem or issue that has been raised
  • Articulate a vision or goal to be achieved
  • Generate solutions or a plan.

Key Points To Take Away

--- Be sure everyone has the same understanding of end-of-meeting agreements.
--- Create next steps: make assignments and assign time frames.
--- Celebrate what the group has accomplished.


Let's look at each of those three steps, one at a time:

What is the problem? The group needs to clarify and agree on the problem or the context for the issue. If someone says, "The problem is the schedule", you need to ask for more specificity. "What is it about the schedule that is a problem?" Are the classes too short? Do students take too much time moving from class to class? Be clear about the problem. If you are planning for the future, you will want to analyze in detail the current situation so everybody in the group can be clear about the starting point.

Where are we going? The group also needs to clarify and agree on the goal. That goal might be an ideal state, a specific accomplishment, or a numerical target. What do you want to accomplish? Where are you trying to go? The group needs a clear statement of the desired result. To be a goal, it should be in a time context (by when?) and be in measurable terms so that the group will know whether it has achieved the goal.

How can we get there? Last, the group needs to agree on one or more solutions to the problem -- ways to meet the goal or steps to reach the vision. Now -- with an agreed problem and a focused goal -- the group can use all its creative skills to create solutions.

The task portion of the meeting begins by defining the issue or the goal. It cannot, however, begin with brainstorming solutions before there is agreement on the issue and the goal. If the group is discouraged, it can be useful to start with the goal or vision as a motivator. If the goal is already clear, then you can go straight to agreeing on and analyzing the problem.

For more information about this 3-step process, order your copy of Great Meetings! Great Results today.

NEXT WEEK IN GREAT MEETINGS: Three ways to work with ideas: generate, evaluate, decide.


About Great Meetings

Pam Plumb and Dee Kelsey are your facilitators in charge of Education World's Great Meetings series. They are also authors of the popular guide to meeting facilitation, Great Meetings! Great Results. Together, Pam and Dee have more than 40 years' experience facilitating change and training meeting leaders.

Learn more by clicking the links below:

* Read biographies
Learn about Pam and Dee.

* Read a "backgrounder"
What will you learn from this series?

* See the Great Meetings archive
See past articles in the series.