What are developmental meetings?
A developmental meeting is a meeting to think about how to do things better. The format and atmosphere are different from a meeting to progress day-to-day matters. For example, a meeting where you ask people to say what they think about a topic while everyone else listens would be a developmental meeting. You need to help people share their thoughts and feelings easily and openly.
Why have developmental meetings?
- They stimulate thought about how you work together and lead to improvements.
- They help you appreciate and use each other’s strengths, interests and contributions.
- They help you eliminate duplication and unnecessary work.
- They help you shape your future together.
- They create new ideas and energy.
- They help to stretch people.
How to run developmental meetings?
- Start the meeting by going around the group and asking everyone to say something positive while everyone else listens. You can ask them to say something that is going well or directly related to the topic. For example, if you are discussing customer service, it might help to ask them to say why this is important to them. This activity allows people to connect and be positive.
- Create a plan from the group’s fundamental interests and concerns. Ask them to list the most critical issues they would like the group to work on today. Put them on a chart without editing or commenting. Then ask each person to tick off the (say) three issues they would like to resolve. The subjects with the most ticks are the agenda for the meeting.
- Ask the participants to share their best thinking on a topic or issue for (say) two minutes while everyone else listens attentively. This method makes the noisy people focus their energy and gives the quiet ones time to think. They also don’t have to fight for attention. Have a turn yourself but go last if you are the most senior person at the meeting.
- Use sub-groups. Groups of three to five are the most effective for producing and testing ideas. If you form small groups of the people with the most interest in a topic, you will get more and better work done than if you stay together.
- If you need to get everyone thinking about something quickly, ask people to take a few minutes each way to talk and listen to each other in pairs. Pair work is particularly effective when you are a bit stuck on something controversial. The thoughts from their paired discussions are usually constructive. It is valuable when you want a thoughtful response to an announcement of a change. Ask each pair to come up with a question or a comment. You will get more thoughtful comments than if you ask a large group.
- At the end of the meeting, or halfway through if it is a long one, ask people what they have learned, what was good about it and how the next one could be better.
When to have developmental meetings?
- When you want to improve the quality of your work together.
- When your conventional meetings need a lift.
- When you have a new challenge to face and want your colleagues’ input.
- When you need ideas and new approaches.
- When you are going through or managing a change.
- When you need cooperation across the organisation or between your organisation and another.