Effective Meetings: Improving Group Decision Making

Books

John E. Tropman

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  • SAGE Human Services Guides

    • GRANTSMANSHIP by Armand Lauffer (second edition)
    • CREATING GROUPS by Harvey J. Bertcher and Frank F. Maple (second edition)
    • UNDERSTANDING YOUR SOCIAL AGENCY by Armand Lauffer (third edition)
    • GROUP PARTICIPATION by Harvey J. Bertcher (second edition)
    • BE ASSERTIVE by Sandra Stone Sundel and Martin Sundel
    • NEEDS ASSESSMENT by Keith A. Neuber with William T. Atkins, James A. Jacobson, and Nicholas A. Reuterman
    • DEVELOPING CASEWORK SKILLS by James A. Pippin
    • EFFECTIVE MEETINGS by John E. Tropman (second edition)
    • CHANGING ORGANIZATIONS AND COMMUNITY PROGRAMS by Jack Rothman, John L. Erlich, and Joseph G. Teresa
    • HELPING WOMEN COPE WITH GRIEF by Phyllis R. Silverman
    • EVALUATING YOUR AGENCY's PROGRAMS by Michael J. Austin, Gary Cox, Naomi Gottlieb, J. David Hawkins, Jean M. Kruzich, and Ronald Rauch
    • ASSESSMENT TOOLS by Armand Lauffer
    • UNDERSTANDING PROGRAM EVALUATION by Leonard Rutman and George Mowbray
    • FAMILY ASSESSMENT by Adele M. Holman
    • SUPERVISION by Eileen Gambrill and Theodore J. Stein
    • STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR HUMAN SERVICES by Richard E. Farmer, Lynn Hunt Monohan, and Reinhold W. Hekeler
    • FAMILY CAREGIVERS AND DEPENDENT ELDERLY by Dianne Springer and Timothy H. Brubaker
    • DESIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING PROCEDURES FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES by Morris Schaefer
    • GROUP THERAPY WITH ALCOHOLICS by Baruch Levine and Virginia Gallogly
    • DYNAMIC INTERVIEWING by Frank F. Maple
    • CAREERS, COLLEAGUES, AND CONFLICTS by Armand Lauffer
    • TREATING ANXIETY DISORDERS by Bruce A. Thyer
    • TREATING ALCOHOLISM by Norman K. Denzin
    • WORKING UNDER THE SAFETY NET by Steve Burghardt and Michael Fabricant
    • MANAGING HUMAN SERVICES PERSONNEL by Peter J. Pecora and Michael J. Austin
    • IMPLEMENTING CHANGE IN SERVICE PROGRAMS by Morris Schaefer
    • PLANNING FOR RESEARCH by Raymond M. Berger and Michael A. Patchner
    • IMPLEMENTING THE RESEARCH PLAN by Raymond M. Berger and Michael A. Patchner
    • MANAGING CONFLICT by Herb Bisno
    • STRATEGIES FOR HELPING VICTIMS OF ELDER MISTREATMENT by Risa S. Breckman and Ronald D. Adelman
    • COMPUTERIZING YOUR AGENCY's INFORMATION SYSTEM by Denise E. Bronson, Donald C. Pelz, and Eileen Trzcinski
    • HOW PERSONAL GROWTH AND TASK GROUPS WORK by Robert K. Conyne
    • COMMUNICATION BASICS FOR HUMAN SERVICE PROFESSIONALS by Elam Nunnally and Caryl Moy
    • COMMUNICATION DISORDERS IN AGING edited by Raymond H. Hull and Kathleen M. Griffin
    • THE PRACTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT by David P. Moxley
    • MEASUREMENT IN DIRECT PRACTICE by Betty J. Blythe and Tony Tripodi
    • BUILDING COALITIONS IN THE HUMAN SERVICES by Milan J. Dluhy with the assistance of Sanford L. Kravitz
    • PSYCHIATRIC MEDICATIONS by Kenneth J. Bender
    • PRACTICE WISDOM by Donald F. Krill
    • PROPOSAL WRITING by Soraya M. Coley and Cynthia A. Scheinberg
    • QUALITY ASSURANCE FOR LONG-TERM CARE PROVIDERS by William Ammentorp, Kenneth D. Gossett, and Nancy Euchner Poe
    • GROUP COUNSELING WITH JUVENILE DELINQUENTS by Matthew L. Ferrara
    • ADVANCED CASE MANAGEMENT: New Strategies For The Nineties by Norma Radol Raiff and Barbara Shore
    • TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN HUMAN SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS by Lawrence L. Martin
    • CONDUCTING NEEDS ASSESSMENTS by Fernando I. Soriano
    • ORAL HISTORY IN SOCIAL WORK by Ruth R. Martin
    • THE FIRST HELPING INTERVIEW: Engaging the Client and Building Trust by Sara F. Fine and Paul H. Glasser
    • MEASURING THE PERFORMANCE OF HUMAN SERVICE PROGRAMS by Lawrence L. Martin and Peter M. Kettner (second edition)
    • CREATING SMALL SCALE SOCIAL PROGRAMS: Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation by Barbara Schram
    • GOAL-FOCUSED INTERVIEWING by Frank F. Maple
    • IMPROVING ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE: A Practical Guidebook for the Human Services Field by Gary V. Sluyter

    Copyright

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    Preface

    Since the publication of the first edition of this book in 1980, more research has been done on decision-making groups of all kinds. Technological advances and electronic connectivity have transformed our work habits and virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet several of the basic contentions expressed in the first edition remain valid.

    What has not changed since the first edition:

    • Meetings and committees are still the object of derision.

      Despite the significant changes in perspective, decision-making groups continue to be objects of scorn and derision in American society. Committee meetings, especially, remain the butt of jokes and cartoons. Such negative perceptions and commentary reflect a notion of collective decision making as inept. To add insult to injury, meetings are also perceived as imprisoning decision-group members in time-wasting endeavors, while producing little or nothing of value.

    • Meeting rottenness continues apace.

      Despite this book—and many others—about how to enhance meeting and decision efficiency and effectiveness, bad practices continue to reproduce themselves at an ever-increasing (or so it seems) rate.

    • A lot could be done to improve the situation.

      Thousands have successfully used the techniques mentioned in this guide (the first edition alone sold more than 10,000 copies), and I continue to receive comments and questions from readers and users. http://Amazon.com alone lists just under 1,000 book titles that discuss effective meetings.

    • That said, not a lot is being done. The awful meetings crisis is a lot like the obesity crisis. We know what to do; we just do not do it.

    What has changed since the first edition? A lot. But let me mention four key points:

    A More Competitive Environment

    The context in which organizations exist and work is vastly different. Every organization—nonprofit, for-profit, governmental—seeks to work better, faster, and cheaper. Organizations are experiencing intense competition regardless of field—price competition, speed competition, and quality competition. Also, the velocity of environmental change is increasing. Hyper-change and web years are part of our current vocabulary.

    Flat, Resilient, Nimble Organizations

    This move from placid streams to permanent white water signals a second change. Perhaps because of contextual change, organizations themselves are being transformed. Our rigid organizational “craft”—the time-worn, rigid “canoelike” structure, with strict hierarchies—does not work in the new environment. We need something flatter, pliable, an organizational craft that can absorb the impact of the hidden rocks and rushing water without cracking open, a craft that will carry us along. The flatter, more configured organization is moving from hierarchy to teams, from spans of control to spans of communication. This movement has been a trend for some time now, but progress has been halting and uneven. Partly, this jerky progress is due to the fact that the central tool of such “newer-form” organizations—the meeting—is so poorly honed. Efficient, effective meetings are a core instrument for coordination, but they function so badly that organizations drift back into command and control modes.

    A Quest for Quality and Impact

    Third, the quality movement has developed and has been accepted by organizations throughout the United States. For those who begin on a quality journey, all aspects of the organization deserve inspection. Meetings—the activities of decision groups—become a central work process to examine for efficiency, effectiveness, and continuous quality improvement (CQI). When decision groups must meet again to achieve some result they should have achieved at the last meeting, they rework, a problem of efficiency. From an organizational point of view, rework as a result of the meeting process is the same as rework from any business process. It costs more than twice as much, because, for one thing, the organization pays again (and often several times) for the same product. To cost, we must add opportunity costs; those who are reworking are not doing something else they should be doing.

    Efficiency is not the only cost. Groups may be efficient (doing things right) but ineffective (working on the wrong problem). When decision groups work efficiently but focus on the wrong problem, they have difficulty with effectiveness.

    When groups work swiftly, on the right problem, but produce poor-quality decisions, then there is the need for CQI.

    For the nonprofit sector, however, quality is a slipperier concept than it is for a manufacturing plant or a restaurant. So, together with quality, an emphasis on impact is emerging. Does my organization impact clients, community, and society? There are multiple measures of achievement, but impact remains an elusive concept for organizations. Peter Vaill (1982) suggests eight measures of organizational achievement. He continues exploring the concept in Managing as a Performing Art (1989), observing that the multifaceted, simultaneous approach rather than the linear approach seems to create more impact. The first eight measures of achievement below are essentially Vaill's.

    • Known Standards. They are performing excellently against known external standards.
    • Close to Potential. They are performing excellently against what is assumed to be their potential level of performance.
    • Self-to-Self Measure. They are performing excellently against where they were at some previous point in time.
    • Informed Observers’ Judgment. They have been judged by informed observers to be doing substantially better, qualitatively, than other comparable systems.
    • Efficiency. They are doing what they do with significantly less [sic] resources than it is assumed they need.
    • Exemplars/Industry Standard. They are perceived as exemplars of the way they do what they do; they are thus a source of inspiration to others.
    • Cultural Ideal. They are perceived to fulfill at a high level the ideals of the culture within which they exist.
    • The Only Ones. They are the only organizations that have been able to do what they do, even though it might not seem that what they do is difficult or mysterious. (p. 25)

    To Vaill's measures, I would add:

    • True Value. They supply true value in both products and services (not just transaction charges that in essence force customers to pay more for the same basic service).
    • Add Value. They add value to the family-organization-community-national-global system over and above the products and services they offer.
    • Nonexploitative. They produce products and offer services without exploiting workers or the environment.
    • Do the Right Things. Their operations are ethical and transparent.

    And Jim Collins (2005) adds:

    • Public Recognition. They receive consistent public appreciation and affirmation.
    • Teachers. They are imitated, consulted, and sell their technologies.
    • Lasting Impact. They have lasting impact over time and in various places.
    Relentless Evaluation

    A fourth change is the emphasis on evaluation of and by managers everywhere. The changed organizational context and recently developed quality movement support evaluative activities. However, improvements in efficiency and effectiveness are not the only goals to strive toward. Decisions are the product of decision-group meetings. Therefore, the decisions themselves need to be evaluated. The earlier analysis scheme for decision assessment is updated and expanded in this edition.

    Changes in the Nonprofit/Social-Benefit Sector

    The four changes mentioned earlier—competitive environment; flat, resilient, nimble organizational structures; and emphases on quality and evaluation—affect all organizations, including nonprofits and human services organizations. But there are changes that more specifically affect social benefit-nonprofit organizations.

    Shifting Decision Loci

    Much decision making is shifting to states and localities, where different actors and different “customers” have different agendas. Competition for the voluntary dollar has increased greatly. Although most nonprofits and human services organizations are small, many are large. In 2005, the United Way system was the largest—just under $4 billion (Barrett, 2005). Of these larger organizations, many are taking steps to simplify their structures, and the increased, efficient use of decision-making groups is a part of that change. Human services organizations across the country are thinking more about customers and consumers, as well as clients. These changes in nomenclature also reflect changes in orientation.

    Continuing Erosion of Support

    Cutbacks of federal support to the human services sector have become especially common.

    Social-benefit organizations are also looking carefully at what they do and how they do it—in short, they are taking evaluation seriously. (It matters what those who use services are called. Customers have a legitimate right to structure an organization's services and have something to say about those services, whereas clients are in a weaker position.)

    A Growing Sector

    The sector is growing—increasing the competition mentioned above. Look at the change in the sector's size. In 1977, there were 103,066 such organizations with one or more paid employees (Tropman & Tropman, 1987). Today's numbers reflect a different story.

    In 2008, over 1.5 million nonprofits were registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). What is the largest single category? 501(c)(3) public charities included over 950,000 organizations and accounted for three fourths of nonprofit revenue and six tenths of nonprofit assets. In 2009, total private giving was $303.8 billion, down 3.6% from the revised estimate for 2008. In 2009, 26.8% of U.S. adults said they volunteered through an organization. Volunteers contributed a total of 15 billion hours during the year, worth $279 billion at average wages (Wing, Roeger, & Pollak, 2010).

    Clearly, these are significant resources central to American society, and they need to be managed well.

    Privatization

    In addition, privatization of social-service efforts has affected the nonprofit and human services sector significantly. Additional efforts to be “bottom-up” with respect to the disadvantaged and to lead in diversity and inclusiveness have added additional stress to this group of organizations.

    These changes have stimulated much intra- and interorganizational realignment. Among these shifts are the respect granted group activity and an increased emphasis on teams, groups, committees, task forces—self-managed units of all kinds. Despite the aforementioned snide remarks about committee meetings, group decision making is getting a lot of attention—the time it takes, the way it works, the possibility of improving it. Self-managed groups have moved from the periphery to the center of organizational life. The negativity is still there, but it has perhaps weakened and must compete with a nascent respect for group-based activity. Hence, there is more respect for decision-making groups and for the tools that help them to work well.

    Benefits of Change

    If we were to improve the meeting- and decision-making processes in American organizations, the results could be spectacular. In May 2011, the Census Bureau reported 6,183,550 workers in the Managerial Occupations category (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). Their average wage was $21.74 per hour. Let us assume they spent 50% of their time in meetings each week (20 hours). This would mean that American organizations spend at least $2,688,607,540 on meetings. (I am not counting civic meetings, community meetings, or board meetings.) This is probably an underestimate; managers spend, really, most of their time in meetings; no other occupations are included in this category. (Individual establishments can get a meeting clock [http://www.mcgurrin.com/clock.htm) to calculate their unique meeting costs.] If my general findings from meeting research are correct and we actually could get “as much done as we do now in meetings in half the time,” the savings would be enormous.

    Improving the meetings of decision-making groups, therefore, can be seen as an aspect of work-out, the process of taking work (time and effort) out of the system. If, for example, it used to take a decision-making group five meetings to achieve some result and that result can now be achieved in three, the work-out consists of two fewer meetings.

    Overview of This Book

    It is my hope that this third edition contains both the value of the old and the benefits of the new. After Chapter 1, the book is organized into five parts.

    I would like to emphasize that the goal of this book is to help you become more aware of the group decision-making process and your position(s) in it. Use it to develop your own perspective. This awareness, it is hoped, will lead to better quality decisions. Decision quality is too rarely considered in thinking about the decision-group and board process. Yet that is what it is all about, really. We get together to make decisions. Naturally, if the process is as chaotic as it often seems (and is!), then those decisions will be good due only by chance. I believe that this process can be improved. With thorough preparation, forethought, and the application of selected techniques, the decision-making group can begin to actually make decisions. This right action in decision groups and boards will, I am sure, amaze some and surprise others. However, once decisions begin to be made, the task of improving them can begin.

    Part I addresses rules for effective decision making. These rules provide a recipe of necessary ingredients for effective and efficient management of decision-making groups. Recruiting members (Chapter 2) is a first step. Chapter 3 details the needed preparations for decision-group meetings, including rules of halves, three quarters, and some new rules. Chapter 4 deals with the agenda, a crucial management tool. The rule of the agenda bell is outlined here. Chapter 5 explores the process of the meeting and suggests some techniques for helping the process move along. Part II addresses the positions and roles required for effective group decision making. Subsequent chapters discuss the chair (Chapter 6), the member (Chapter 7), the staffer (Chapter 8), and the executive (Chapter 9). It concludes with a chapter on roles (e.g., leader and follower). Part III explores different kinds of groups, specifically boards, advisory groups, and staff groups. Part IV focuses on “high-quality decisions” and their leadership and management. Part V explores electronic meeting formats.

    The material in this book comes largely from the Meeting Masters Research Project at the University of Michigan. That project began several years ago with the insight that, while most meetings were deeply flawed, a small minority was exceptional and excellent. Exceptional, excellent meetings were those in which the real meeting was the meeting you were actually in, participation was authentic, decisions got made, and decisions were high quality. Their ongoing accomplishment attracted talent and participation, which in turn yielded greater results. This is what Jim Collins, in Good to Great, calls “The Flywheel” (2005).

    Through purposive and snowball sampling, such decision groups were identified and observed. Drawing on a second insight—that “excellence is never an accident”—the author and his students identified the practices that generated such meeting excellence. They are the basis for this book.

    Acknowledgments

    A third edition requires a special set of appreciative recognitions. First among equals here is Professor (now Emeritus) Armand Lauffer, founder of the series and a continuing contributor to it. Earlier supporters include Dan Madaj, editor extraordinaire. My current SAGE editor, Ms. Kassie Graves, deserves special appreciation for her continual encouragement, support, and editorial assistance.

    Thank you to readers and commentators who looked at the second edition with special care. These include Phillip G. Clampitt, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay; Ruth Schultz, Minneapolis Public Schools, Special School District 1; LeAnne E. Silvey, Michigan State University; Beulah Hirschlein, Oklahoma State University; David A. Tyler, Wayland Baptist University; Dale Weaver, California State University, Los Angeles; and James T. Shelton, Metropolitan State University.

    Special thanks, as well, go to the many readers who have contacted me over the years. Some have suggested improvements and shared problems with applications, and others have spoken with me about what went right and wrong. Many readers liked the agenda bell and found it easy to use. Some wanted more attention devoted to total quality management. The third edition includes these suggested improvements.

    Abiding thanks are due to my late father, Elmer J. Tropman. A human services professional, his early interest in committees sparked my own interest in decision-making groups. His wisdom and perspective remain at the core of this work.

    Each of my children contributed in special ways to this volume. Their reviews and comments were always helpful. Sarah's perspective on health groups, Jessica's knowledge of the library and information science field, and Matthew's experience with group decision-making styles in the field of music and arts management helped immeasurably.

    My wife, Penny, has sustained me through this and many other projects with intellectual support, critique, and encouragement. My thanks to you all.

  • Appendix 1: Embracing the Digital: Group Membership in a Technological World

    By Christopher J.Gardner

    Technology advances faster than most people can follow. Laptops, handheld devices, and cloud computing make information portable. Wireless access removes the tether on traditional technology. These changes create new opportunities and challenges for effective meetings. How can a meeting be successful when some of the attendees or participants aren't even in the room? How do meeting members keep focused when a plethora of entertaining alternatives rest at their fingertips? This chapter will take the aspects of successful meetings and alter them slightly to accommodate the changing world of technology.

    Understanding the Technologies

    The task, as in any battle, is to understand the opponents. In the meeting place, two types of technology come into play: detrimental and beneficial. Detrimental technology is any type of equipment that could remove the focus of the group from the tasks at hand, while beneficial technology increases the effectiveness of the group. The challenge for any group is to determine which of these types of technologies is in play when they meet.

    Detrimental Technology

    In business, there is a principle called opportunity cost. Simply put, it is the cost of anything based on the value of the next best alternative. It is the sacrifice made by choosing one way instead of another, and it applies to holding meetings. It is a meeting organizer's goal to ensure that no other option has a higher opportunity cost than that of attending and participating in the meeting.

    Detrimental technology can quickly become a more interesting—and distracting—alternative in a meeting. If the conversation has strayed from the topic, it's not unreasonable to expect that some meeting members may turn to their handheld devices for an alternative. Phones, tablets, and laptops now provide easy access to the web, e-mail, Twitter, and a range of other equally appealing opportunities. Instead of worrying about people nodding off at the meeting, the chair now has to contend with members whose attention is focused on improving their solitaire score or updating their Facebook status.

    Meeting chairs must be diligent in keeping the meeting on topic and members focused, but meeting participants should also play a part. Most items in e-mail or on the web are not so time critical that they need to be seen immediately. Disabling ringers, turning off handheld devices, and closing laptops are effective methods for ensuring that everyone remains involved. As always, there may be exceptions to this rule, as all members have responsibilities that go beyond the group.

    Beneficial Technology

    Not all technology is distracting. In fact, many useful tools are available to meeting organizers. Members at other locations can now attend meetings, presentations don't have to be printed on paper, and minutes can be typed instead of hastily scribbled. There is a huge array of opportunities to use technology to improve meetings, but each takes some preparation.

    Technology at the Meeting

    Whiteboards and flip sheets are useful for organizing thoughts and ideas, but computers and projectors have increased meeting functionality greatly. Notes, agendas, meeting minutes, reports, and any other document can quickly be pulled up and displayed to the participants. Demonstrations, videos, and other resources can also be viewed.

    Slideshow software has quickly become the tool of choice for most presenters, and a majority of meeting organizers rely on PowerPoint or Prezi to present the agenda and/or to cover the various topics. One major pitfall for users who choose this path is that meeting organizers tend to read the slides as they go by. However, meeting members can also read slides; repeating the information to them does nothing more than encourage them to fall asleep. This is a key difference between an organizing PowerPoint (a sort of meeting “orchestral score”) and a presentation PowerPoint.

    An advantage of slide presentations is that it provides basic data for users to review. The presenter is challenged with further developing the concepts presented in the slides and adding to the content listed on each slide. This new information should draw the reader in and clarify the points made by the slide. Also, the presenter should use the slides to engage the group. Each member should be willing to comment on and critique the presentation, not as an insult to the presenter's knowledge but rather as an addition of different viewpoints and ideas to ensure that the best decision is made. Also, PowerPoint comes with several print layouts that create excellent handouts for meeting members to use when making notes.

    An organizing PowerPoint slide presentation needs to help group members work toward a decision. PowerPoint should be designed according to the structure of the meeting, providing the most controversial and important information in the middle. A scribe with a laptop can type minutes without worrying about being able to interpret the writing later. Later, when the minutes are cleaned up and finalized, there is no need to transcribe a handwritten version. An electronic version of the text already exists and just needs to be formatted.

    Finally, if possible, the slideshow should be made available to members after the meeting. Notes on the slides should enable the member to quickly recall what was discussed. Each slide should have enough information to be easily understood by someone who did not attend the meeting. If notes are added to the slides during the presentation, they should be clear and should describe what was discussed.

    In addition to presentation software, computers with projectors can be used to quickly display project agendas, minutes, and reports during the meeting. This allows the meeting to continue seamlessly without the scramble of members digging out papers to review. Providing such a central source of information cuts down on paper waste and allows for easy archiving. Last, once minutes and any additional notes are typed and archived, they can easily be accessed for future reference.

    Obviously, computers are extremely versatile for presentations, note taking, and documentation, but they are also valuable alternatives to other pieces of equipment. Microphones and video cameras, for example, can augment or replace the work of a secretary. Clickers can be synchronized for use as a voting mechanism for members. As discussed in the next section, software can be used to bring members or presenters to a meeting from an off-site location.

    Bringing Remote External Participants to the Meeting

    Technology can be distracting, but it can also be beneficial for meeting groups. This is especially true when trying to involve participants who would otherwise be too far away to attend. Currently, multiple different options for online and phone meetings range from a simple conference phone to full video and file sharing.

    Video chats with shared application services go beyond the basic video conference. They allow the host to share desktop or application views of one or all of the participating members. This function can be used to share minutes, agendas, and reports. Another step forward is collaborative meeting software, which allows all members to cooperatively work on the same document or documents. This technology provides many benefits, while also creating challenges for the chair, staff, members, and executive. These challenges focus on developing a comfort with the technology that facilitates easy and comfortable use.

    Available Meeting Technologies

    A plethora of available technologies is available for those who want to bring remote participants into a meeting or make a meeting available for viewing to remote participants (and vice versa). The type of technology chosen should reflect the needs of the participants and the presenter(s). Will there be visuals? Can external members participate with varied types of communication? Do the external attendees need to be visible? The answers to these questions will determine the type of technology and software needed for the meeting. The chair will be responsible for deciding how participants may attend. For a mandatory in-person meeting,everyone is present, so connecting technology is not necessary—only in-meeting technology.

    Speakerphone

    An off-site participant may attend a meeting by dialing in to a speakerphone placed in the meeting room. If the attendee calls in, he or she will need to know the number to dial. If the onsite location initiates the call, a staff member will need the number to dial to connect with the attendee. Decide on this procedure in advance of the meeting.

    Conference Call

    This is different than the previous option in that all members are attending via phone. To make this successful, all members will need to know the call-in number and the time they should call in.

    Online Chat

    This version of a meeting takes place online. Meeting members gather in a “room” and type communications back and forth on their computer screens. Popular options for this type of communication include the following:

    • MSN Chat
    • Google Chat
    • Exchange Communicator
    • Yahoo Instant Messenger (IM)
    Online Presentation

    This takes chat to the next level. In this version of a meeting, the presenter usually provides most (if not all) of the spoken communication. He or she presents the ideas via live feed over the Internet; at the end of the presentation, attendees submit typed questions or comments. This type of presentation—often called a webinar—is flexible, in that the presenter can record the meeting ahead of time, and attendees can watch and respond at their leisure. It is popular as an effective tool for teaching.

    Online Meeting

    This is a full meeting held online. While some members may attend together in the same room, the rest watch and listen from other locations on their computers. Like online chat clients, many popular software options exist for this type of meeting, and each has unique features:

    • Skype
    • GotoMeeting
    • Adobe Connect
    • Google Hangouts

    The Wikipedia entry on web conferencing software1 contains a chart that compares many of these software titles. While a helpful starting point, it should be regarded as inconsistent, as many titles and capabilities change rapidly.

    Responsibilities for the Chair

    First the chair needs to decide what type of solution will best bring external participants to the meeting. If it is a discussion, a simple voice chat might be sufficient. If there are slides or other visual presentations, a video conference may be more appropriate. If the meeting presenter is the external participant, then it may be necessary to have video, voice, and desktop application sharing. The chair should not forget that some external participants may be in different time zones and should ensure that the meeting time is clearly defined.

    Second, the meeting organizer needs to ensure that the participants in the meeting have access to the tools necessary to attend. Anyone who will not physically be in the meeting room needs to know how to connect to the meeting. Will there be a phone number to call? Is there software to install? Does the user need a webcam or microphone? It is the responsibility of the chair to ensure that these issues are addressed long before the meeting takes place. No one wants to scramble to find a webcam or install software at the last minute.

    This planning has to happen well in advance of the meeting. No one likes a meeting that is held up while an off-site member struggles to connect. If possible, the connections should be tested ahead of time, and each remote attendee should be aware of the steps. The chair should also be prepared to set up the meeting site 15 to 20 minutes early to ensure that everything is ready when external participants begin to connect.

    As mentioned before, the chair is challenged with deciding what level of connection the remote participants will need. A phone or voice-only connection is viable when discussion is all that is required. In this instance, the chair must ensure that the remote participant(s) have an electronic copy of the agenda, making note of any possible time zone conflicts. He or she will also need the phone number or chat connection information to join the meeting.

    For the meeting room itself, the chair will need to ensure a conference phone or computer connection is available for the participants to connect to. When the meeting begins, each member in the meeting room should be introduced for off-site participants. Likewise, as the meeting progresses, speakers should identify themselves before providing input to the meeting. This ensures that off-site participants are aware of the opinions of each member of the group.

    Video eliminates the need for identifying speakers, but it does add additional complexity in terms of participant tracking, participation management, shifting between speaker and listeners, et cetera. Again, comfort in using the technology should be a governing principle. High-end technology that cannot be smoothly operated becomes a distraction rather than a help. Numerous options are available for those who conduct a meeting via video chat. Some provide additional features, more connections, or cheaper costs. Some software titles provide screen sharing, and some are even free. Many common packages are easily tracked down with a simple web search.

    The chair can decide what is best for the group, but he or she should encourage the group to provide opinions on what works best. Once the decision is made, the chair provides each member with the necessary resources to use the software should they be unable to attend a meeting in person. The chair will be responsible for ensuring that the necessary equipment is prepared at the meeting site as well as hosting the meeting several minutes ahead of time to allow external members to connect.

    The final responsibility of the chair is to ensure that a backup option is ready. Each external attendee should have a copy of the agenda and any necessary documentation or presentation. Each external member should supply a phone number to ensure that if anything goes wrong or is delayed, there are ways to contact the other members or participants. These steps should be taken well in advance of the meeting starts to ensure that all possibilities are accounted for.

    Responsibilities for Staff

    The major task for the staff member(s) is to assist the chair in completing all the tasks involved in organizing the internal and external participants. Since the chair is charged with so many tasks, he or she may ask the staff member to assist in testing software, testing the phone conference, or even reserving the room. For this reason, the staff member will need to be especially familiar with the software and hardware being used.

    A staff member should be willing to meet with any technical support staff to get any necessary training on the equipment being used. He or she should run several tests on the software and get comfortable with troubleshooting any potential problems that may arise. Staff members should have technical support phone numbers in hand should anything go wrong prior to the meeting's start.

    One key challenge when using technology to bring external members into a meeting is making sure the technology works correctly. Some problems are inherent to video and audio chat in meeting settings. For example, many pieces of software are unable to filter external participants; as a result, some software creates feedback as the microphone in the room picks up the audio from the speakers. It is important to test equipment and software in advance.

    Aside from helping the chair, the staff member should also be responsible for giving the agenda and all necessary documentation to the external participants. This could be as simple as sending an e-mail attachment. It may also be possible to provide hard copies of necessary documentation to the external attendees. While it seems trivial, these little steps can assist in dodging potential pitfalls once the meeting begins.

    The final, and most important, role of the staff member is to take especially clear notes during the meeting. Since one or more of the members will be external attendees, there is a good chance that they will miss something. Many times, meetings continue long after the official end happens. If discussion continues after external members disconnect, it is the responsibility of the staff member to ensure that the discussions get noted and passed on to the remote attendee.

    The staff may wish to record the meeting and have it available as a reference for notes and for external attendees. Many software packages offer recording options. These recordings, like the minutes, should be available to the meeting group. Security may be important to group members; if so, staff should regularly audit access rights to minutes and recordings.

    Responsibilities for Members

    Member responsibilities differ by participant type. Internal members should follow the basic rules of successful meetings. The only addition to their responsibilities is that they identify themselves when communicating at the meeting. This ensures that the external attendees are clear as to who is adding to the conversation and assists the staff member who transcribes or formats notes after the meeting.

    External members have several other challenges. Attending a meeting remotely requires coordination and timing. Thus, they must prepare in advance with cooperation from the chair and the staff team members.

    First, external members need to be aware of what technology they will use to connect to the meeting. Will they call a phone number? Will they need to install special software? Will they need an Internet connection at the external location? All of these questions need to be answered several days before the meeting occurs.

    Second, members need to ensure that they have advance copies of all necessary notes for the meeting, in case the technology fails at some point during the meeting. While careful planning can prevent most problems, there are some times when technology is unwilling to cooperate. At such times, members will be thankful they planned ahead.

    Members need to test connections in advance if possible. They should work with the staff member to ensure that the necessary software and hardware is working. A trial run ensures that they are comfortable with the connection method. If technology is not working properly and solutions are not immediately obvious, technical support should be contacted for training before the member leaves. Similar to the chair, members are charged with ensuring that they have correctly configured all software and hardware and are ready to go when the meeting starts.

    Finally, members should begin the connection process 5 to 10 minutes before the meeting actually begins. This gives members, staff, and chair time to troubleshoot any potential problems. It also gives some time to come up with an alternative method of connecting if the selected method is not functioning correctly. During the meeting, external members should both identify themselves when speaking and request identification if they are unclear who is talking.

    Responsibilities for Executives

    Executives face fewer challenges when a meeting uses technology to bring in external members, unless, of course, they are the external members! Executives’ biggest change in responsibility lies in ensuring the meeting and its members have the necessary equipment. Thus, executives should take any technology recommendations from the group and provide the funding necessary to ensure that this technology is available.

    The executive may be required to further investigate suggestions from members. This may mean a visit to the internal information technnology (IT) or audiovisual office. Often, these two offices employ meeting technology experts. Their expertise can be extremely helpful in deciding cost-effective solutions to meet a decision-making group's needs.

    Appendix 2: Annotated Bibliography

    By TalyaGates-Monasch
    Leadership
    The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, Adam Bryant (2012)
    From the Publisher

    Dozens of top CEOs reveal their candid insights on the keys to effective leadership and the qualities that set high performers apart.

    What does it take to reach the top in business and to inspire others? Adam Bryant of The New York Times decided to answer this and other questions by sitting down with more than seventy CEOs and asking them how they do their jobs and the most important lessons they learned as they rose through the ranks. Over the course of extraordinary interviews, they shared memorable stories and eye-opening insights.

    The Corner Office draws lessons from chief executives such as Steve Ballmer (Microsoft), Carol Bartz (Yahoo), Jeffrey Katzenberg (DreamWorks), and Alan Mulally (Ford), from which Bryant has crafted an original work that reveals the keys to success in the business world, including the five essential personality traits that all high performers exhibit—qualities that the CEOs themselves value most and that separate the rising stars from their colleagues. Bryant also demystifies the art of leadership and shows how executives at the top of their game get the most out of others.

    Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all skill, and these CEOs offer different perspectives that will help anyone who seeks to be a more effective leader and employee. For aspiring executives—of all ages—The Corner Office offers a path to future success.

    Leadership in Organizations, 8th Edition, Gary Yukl (2012)
    From the Publisher

    An exploration of what makes an effective leader. Leadership in Organizations provides a balance of theory and practice as it surveys the major theories and research on leadership and managerial effectiveness in formal organizations.

    The eighth edition includes new examples, citations, and guidelines, and has been enhanced for better clarity and presentation.

    TEDxTalks “Puget Sound: Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (2009) [e-Video]

    By http://TED.com website

    From the Author

    Beginning as a student in anthropology, Simon Sinek turned his fascination with people into a career of convincing people to do what inspires them. His earliest work was in advertising, moving on to start Sinek Partners in 2002, but he suddenly lost his passion despite earning solid income. Through his struggle to rediscover his excitement about life and work, he made some profound realizations and began helping his friends and their friends to find their “why”—at first charging just $100, person by person. Never planning to write a book, he penned Start With Why simply as a way to distribute his message.

    TEDxUSC: “Dave Logan: Tribal Leadership (2009)” [e-Video]

    By http://TED.com website

    From the Author

    David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form—in schools, workplaces, even the driver's license bureau. By understanding our shared tribal tendencies, we can help lead each other to become better individuals.

    Meeting Participation
    League of Women Voters
    From the Publisher's Introduction

    Robert's Rules of Order

    —Summary Version

    For Fair and Orderly Meetings & Conventions

    Provides common rules and procedures for deliberation and debate in order to place the whole membership on the same footing and speaking the same language. The conduct of ALL business is controlled by the general will of the whole membership, the right of the deliberate majority to decide. Complementary is the right of at least a strong minority to require the majority to be deliberate—to act according to its considered judgment AFTER a full and fair “working through” of the issues involved. Robert's Rules provides for constructive and democratic meetings, to help, not hinder, the business of the assembly. Under no circumstances should “undue strictness” be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation. See http://lwve.org/files/roberts_rules_summary.pdf

    Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Al Pittampalli (2011)
    From the Publisher

    How many times have you dreaded going to a meeting either because you viewed it as a waste of time or because you weren't prepared. Dread no longer: Read This Before Our Next Meeting not only explains what's wrong with “the meeting,” and meeting culture, but suggests how to make meetings more effective, efficient, and worthy of attending. It assesses when it's necessary to skip the meeting and get right to work. Al Pittampalli shares examples of transforming workplaces by revamping the purpose of the meeting and a company's meeting culture. This book belongs on the shelf of any employee, employer, and company looking to revolutionize what it means to do “work” all day and how to do it. Simply put: Stop wasting time. Read This Before Our Next Meeting is the call to action you (or your boss) need(s) to create the company that does the meaningful work it was created to do.

    Boring Meetings Suck: Get More Out of Your Meetings, or Get Out of More Meetings, Jon Petz (2011)
    From the Publisher

    The guide that proves your meetings don't have to be awful!

    There's a big dull elephant in the boardroom: this meeting! Most of the millions of meetings held in the world today are a monumental waste of time and talent. Worse still, most of the so-called solutions and books for boring meetings are twice as boring.

    Boring Meetings Suck provides tips and tactics to deliver “Get-In, Get-It-Done, or Get-Out” style meetings, while also tackling what most prefer to avoid: that you don't have to be in charge of a meeting to take charge of a meeting. This entertaining and take-no-prisoners guide is full of easily deployed SRDs “Suckification Reduction Devices” that will help you make your next meeting both efficient and effective.

    • Empowers attendees to politely speak up and get a meeting back on track, or graciously get out, without being fired
    • Shows how hosts can capitalize on technology, learning to crowd-source problems and increase participation
    • Defines surefire methods to get meetings to start and end on time and not have the speaker read the slides
    • Stops over-invitation syndrome
    • The author has appeared before many major corporate clients and was named a “Top Business Professional Under 40” by American City Business Journals

    Your meetings do not have to bore, nor must they suck. Instead, get the winning techniques in Boring Meetings Suck, and make your meetings awesome in their engagement and productivity, or stop having them!

    Running Meetings: Expert Solutions to Everyday Challenges, Harvard Business School Press (2006)
    From the Back of the Back Cover

    Meetings are unavoidable—but they don't have to be unproductive. This hands-on guide helps you transform meetings from time sinks to springboards for effective action … a wealth of strategies enabling you to

    • Prepare effectively for meetings
    • Keep meetings on track
    • Ensure that decisions get carried out
    Meeting Excellence: 33 Tools to Lead Meetings That Get Results, G. Parker & R. Hoffman (2006)
    From the Book Jacket, Front Flap

    Meeting Excellence is a comprehensive resource that provides a wide range of ready-to-use tools that have been developed and tested by a meeting initiative within Novartis Pharmaceuticals. It is based on years of researchers observing team meetings, examining existing meeting documents, and conducting a number of intensive individual interviews in the United States and Europe. This important book offers the information and tools needed to prepare, facilitate, and follow up on all your meetings. Step by step, Meeting Excellence shows how to

    • Create an action-focused meeting agenda
    • Ensure that everyone participates in discussion
    • Deal with disruptive and inattentive people
    • Develop a climate of trust among meeting participants
    • Create and deliver effective meeting presentations
    • Stay on track to achieve your meeting goals
    • Achieve clear communication during a multicultural meeting
    • Liven up a dreary and unproductive meeting
    • Close your meeting on an upbeat and positive note
    • Get action on team action items
    • Improve meeting communications with line management
    • Evaluate your meeting quickly and effectively
    • Choose among various web-based meeting tools
    • Close your meeting on an upbeat and positive note
    Thought Leadership: Moving Hearts and Minds, Robin Ryde (2007)
    From the Publisher

    All leadership starts with thinking: about problems, about possibilities, and about organizational capabilities. But thinking never occurs in a vacuum. Long gone are the days when a chief executive would disappear for weeks with a towel over his head, only to reappear to announce “the answer” to the organization. Modern leadership is about shaping the social process of engagement, strategizing and decision making so that workers can create immeasurable value. This book is about what executives can do to transform the thinking of those around them. It is about the circuitry that lies beneath the change process and the habits and norms that govern business conversations. For every senior person that ever had a sense of déjà vu in the boardroom or was horrified to see great minds producing pulp, this is the book for them. This book will give you exemplary decision making, quicker organizational change, and focused leadership.

    Handling Effective Meetings: What You Need to Know, J. Smith (2011)
    From the Publisher

    A meeting is a gathering of two or more people that has been convened for the purpose of achieving a common goal through verbal interaction, such as sharing information or reaching agreement. Meetings may occur face to face or virtually, as mediated by communications technology, such as a telephone conference call, a Skype conference call or a videoconference.

    Thus, a meeting may be distinguished from other gatherings, such as a chance encounter (not convened), a sports game or a concert (verbal interaction is incidental), a party or the company of friends (no common goal is to be achieved) and a demonstration (whose common goal is achieved mainly through the number of demonstrators present, not verbal interaction).

    This book is your one-stop, ultimate resource for Handling Effective Meetings. Here you will find the most up-to-date information, analysis, background and everything you need to know.

    This book explains in-depth the real drivers and workings of Handling Effective Meetings. It reduces the risk of your time and resources investment decisions by enabling you to compare your understanding of Handling Effective Meetings with the objectivity of experienced professionals.

    Unique, authoritative, and wide-ranging, it offers practical and strategic advice for managers, business owners and students worldwide.

    The Manager's Guide to Effective Team Meetings, B.J. Streibel (2002)
    From the Publisher

    All managers, whether brand new to their positions or well established in the corporate hierarchy, can use a little “brushing up” now and then. The skills-based Briefcase Books series is filled with ideas and strategies to help managers become more capable, efficient, effective, and valuable to their corporations.

    The Manager's Guide to Effective Meetings is a hands-on guide to planning and conducting meetings that fellow professionals will want to attend. It provides techniques for keeping a meeting focused and on target, reveals latest tools for virtual meetings and more. This latest addition to the popular Briefcase Books series will prove invaluable to anyone who has to plan or conduct meetings, in any environment.

    Organizational Context & Health
    The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, Patrick Lencioni (2012)
    From the Publisher

    There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides.

    Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave. Lencioni's first non-fiction book provides leaders with a groundbreaking, approachable model for achieving organizational health—complete with stories, tips and anecdotes from his experiences consulting to some of the nation's leading organizations. In this age of informational ubiquity and nano-second change, it is no longer enough to build a competitive advantage based on intelligence alone. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.

    Great by Choice, Jim Collins & Morten Hansen (2011)
    From the Book Jacket

    Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins returns with another groundbreaking work, this time to ask: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, enumerate the principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times.

    Great by Choice distinguishes itself from Collins's prior work by its focus not just on performance, but also on the type of unstable environments faced by leaders today. With a team of more than twenty researchers, Collins and Hansen studied companies that rose to greatness—beating their industry indexes by a minimum of ten times over fifteen years—in environments characterized by big forces and rapid shifts that leaders could not predict or control. The research team then contrasted these “10X companies” to a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to achieve greatness in similarly extreme environments.

    Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt (2012)
    From the Publisher

    To be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform. In this step-by-step guide, Michael Hyatt, former CEO and current chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, takes readers behind the scenes, into the new world of social media success. He shows you what best-selling authors, public speakers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creatives are doing differently to win customers in today's crowded marketplace. Hyatt speaks from experience. He writes one of the top 800 blogs in the world and has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. His large and growing platform serves as the foundation for his successful writing, speaking, and consulting practice.

    Lean Startup, Eric Ries (2011)
    From the Publisher

    Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.

    The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counterintuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.

    Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs—in companies of all sizes—a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it's too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in an age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

    Creativity: Being Usefully Innovative in Solving Diverse Problems, Stuart Nagel (2000)
    From the Publisher

    The distinctive aspect of a creative alternative is that it is better on whatever criteria are considered relevant than the alternatives that were previously being considered. A special kind of creativity involves not merely finding a better way of doing things, but of finding a way that exceeds the best initial expectations of whatever sides or viewpoints may have been in contention over how to deal with a problem. That kind of creativity can be referred to as super-optimizing creativity. It does more than just find a new better or best alternative. It finds an alternative that is better than what the previous perspectives had as their best expectations, simultaneously across all those previous perspectives. Super-optimizing creativity is closely related to super-optimizing analysis that refers to methods that are useful in finding alternatives that are capable of exceeding the best expectations of all sides and viewpoints to dispute or dilemmas.

    The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, B. Schwartz (2004)
    From the Back Cover

    Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, selecting a long-distance carrier, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions—from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs—have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented. We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of choice overload: [I]t can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures.

    Appendix 3: Suggested Reading

    Braybrook, D., & Linbloom, C. E. (1963). A strategy of decision. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
    Cohen, M., & March, J. O. (1974). Leadership and ambiguity. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    Houle, C. O. (1989). Governing boards. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (1982). Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511809477
    March, J., & Simon, H. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley.
    McCaskey, M. (1982). The CEO challenge: Managing change and ambiguity. Marshfield, MA: Pitman.
    Sayles, L. R., & Chandler, M. K. (1992). Managing large systems. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Books.
    Simon, H. (1960). Administrative behavior (
    2nd ed.
    ). New York, NY: Macmillan.
    Thurow, L. (1986). The management challenge. Cambridge, MA: MIT.
    Vaill, P. (1982, Autumn). The purposing of high performing systems. Organizational Dynamics, pp. 23–39. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0090-2616%2882%2990003-1
    Vaill, P. (1989). Managing as a performing art. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Weick, K., & Roberts, K. (1993). Collective mind in organizations: Heedful interrelating on flight decks. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 357–381. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2393372

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    About the Author

    John E. Tropman teaches at the University of Michigan in the School of Social Work and in the Ross School of Business. In Social Work, his courses focus on executive leadership and policy development for human service and nonprofit organizations, while in Ross, they focus on organizational design, organizational culture, rewards systems, organizational change, and leadership of nonprofit and social enterprise organizations. He has also taught in the Executive Education Programs at Michigan and Carnegie Mellon Universities. He has written, and edited, alone and with others, over 40 books and many articles. Through his consultancy, High Quality Decisions, John has also held a number of administrative positions at the University of Michigan, including acting head of the Institute of Gerontology; chair of the Michigan Society of Fellows; interim dean, associate dean, and special counsel to the dean at the School of Social Work; and chair of numerous advisory committees throughout the university.

    John also works with a number of organizations in a consultative capacity, including for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental entities. He assists them in strategic planning, developing effective decision systems, managing change, and providing executive training. He also works with individual executives, assisting them in their own career development and serving as an executive coach.


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