Well, let’s dig into this for a minute.
Imagine a team of seven or eight people, including a single team leader and individual team members who each have different areas of responsibility. They meet weekly to share information and discuss key issues because the success of the team depends on these individuals collaborating and coordinating effectively, even though they are usually off in their own areas getting work done. As is the case with most organizations, they start the weekly team meeting by going around and sharing an update, and then the rest of the meeting is focused on specific issues the team leader wants to discuss and work through.
Sounds logical enough.
But here’s what’s actually happening: Before the staff meeting, eight individuals make eight decisions about what information to share. For example, the team leader has to figure out what gets shared about what’s happening higher up in the organization, in addition to sharing whatever she’s been working on related to the project. The individual members have to make similar decisions. Sometimes, there’s pressure to make sure it looks like you’re competent, too, so you might emphasize things that make you look good. This is often subtle and even subconscious.
In the meeting, everyone shares two or three puzzle pieces, but without even thinking about how those pieces might fit or not with the others. During the update, some members are completely bored because they already know most of the information being shared, and others are frustrated because they’re not hearing what they want or need to know. Everyone is essentially looking at this new collection of random puzzle pieces and not knowing what to do about it. But no one can raise an objection, because the meeting already takes two hours and everyone just wants to go back to their office and get back to work. In the end, people do not have the information they need to solve problems, get things done, and make key decisions.
Because the information that is being “reported” should have been visible to all the team members already!
This practice of reporting out comes from an era when we didn’t have reliable telephone service, let alone shared hard drives, email, Slack, or Asana. In today’s digital environment, there is no excuse for people not having access to basic information. We shouldn’t have to convene a meeting to share that stuff; internal transparency should be a given. And that’s not about sharing “private” or “proprietary” information. It is about making more of the basic workings of the organization visible to everyone so they can make better decisions.
As a team member, I should be able to see the basic conversations my team members are having through collaboration software. I should see progress towards goals through project management software.
At my company, WorkXO, we have only three people, but we use Slack and Asana (and email, of course) to make sure everyone has the information they need to make key decisions at the precise time they need to be made. We also have weekly meetings — but they’re much more focused and effective because we don’t waste time reporting. Or, more accurately, when we do report, it’s because we could see how that specific puzzle piece fits into everything and is the one we need to focus on at that moment.
Start building your transparency architecture now, so your people can start moving the needle on performance, rather than dreading your weekly staff meeting.