The Meeting After the Meeting is Where Real Decisions are Made

You’ve seen it happen.  The team meets, discusses issues, and comes to apparent conclusions largely influenced by the biggest-title-in-the-room.  Then, after the meeting, a few people huddle in the hallway saying the things that should have been said in the room.  The color interpretations.  The queries about “what that really meant when so-and-so said that thing.” The next courses of action…or in-action.

One of the bigger reasons that face time in the office is so important is because it’s those people who are physically present that are most able to join the meeting after the meeting.  I’ve seen it happen over instant messaging though too, but it’s not the prominent medium for meetings-after-the-meetings.

If you think the meeting after the meeting never happens in your company, maybe you’re right.

Or maybe you aren’t invited.  If you’ve ever made some great decisions in a management meeting only to later discover that things aren’t going the way you thought you decided they should, then you probably missed the meeting after the meeting.

What if you have the meeting after the meeting during the actual meeting?

Just imagine the benefits to the business in terms of aligned, purposeful actions of even a 50% improvement in in-meeting open discussion and real decision-making. If you want to make those after-meetings superfluous, here are a few ways to encourage more of open discussion and, yes, even conflict in your meetings:

  1. Make it a point to mine for conflict during meetings. Don’t punish or remove those who do.
  2. Reward and thank people who offer up challenges to current thinking even when it doesn’t change the direction.
  3. Be genuinely curious even when someone is contradicting a position you feel really good about.  And not just curious about how to most promptly show them the flaws in their thinking.
  4. When you feel MOST energized by an idea, that’s a signal to pause and pay attention to the cases against it because you are the most blinded by your biases.  Don’t sweat it—you may still be right.  Or not.
  5. Build a step into the meeting agenda for discussing follow through & cascade.  Sometimes what seemed like agreement turns into a hidden conflict when you get to the stage of messaging and actions for implementing a decision across the business.
  6. For less-than-urgent but really-important decisions, create a pause and come back to the topic in a few days or a week. This gives time for the introverts to think about the decision more deeply.  This also gives time to everyone to vet some elements of the decision with their teams.

In all likelihood, it’s impossible to completely get rid of the meeting after the meeting. 

Maybe it is, but I wouldn’t know about that.  As with most complex issues that are bound up in irrationality as much as logic, the goal is to reduce the impacts, not to fundamentally change human nature.  There are ways to do that.  Good luck!

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