For many of us, there seemingly is not a week that goes by that doesn’t involve a committee, board or other communal meeting. Designed to share information, make informed decisions, establish responsibilities and goals, these gatherings bring value to the most humble church basement and the loftiest corporate executive suite. In my own life, I have spent more than an hour or two sitting around the table seeking collaboration and camaraderie to advance my community, my faith and my business. Yet, for all their importance, some of these meetings are dreaded like lines at amusement parks – long and perhaps necessary but rarely commensurate with the minutes consumed by the actual ride.
In fact, the idea for this column was presented by a reader who’d had her fill of pointless meetings meandering aimlessly, all-the-while wasting the precious time of those that had gathered for the forum. She, it seems, longs for the structure and protocol of a formal process to move the indispensable work of the boardroom forward in the most efficient and respectful way. But, in a world where jeans have become more common than business suits, is there a place for formality, even in the conference room?
Meetings, like any journey from being in one place and headed to another, require some sense of direction. If the goal is to advance a cause or move a company, the agenda acts as the map. The minutes are the perfunctory reminders of things that have been done in preparation for today’s trip. The reports inform the group that progress (or regress) is being made and that the journey is, in fact, underway as promised. But mostly, isn’t organization about showing respect for the other people in the room? Innovation needn’t be stymied by structure.