Making Meetings Work: Achieving High Quality Group Decisions

Books

John E. Tropman

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Paradigm Shift: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

    Part II: Managing for Meeting Success

    Part III: Becoming a Meeting Master: Some Tips on Application

    Part IV: Strategic Perspectives on Meetings

    Part V: Leadership in Family Meeting and Civic/Community Meeting Decision Making

  • Copyright

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    Acknowledgments

    I want to express appreciation to the many people who have made this second edition possible. Let me start, though, with the first edition. Armand Lauffer was instrumental in making the connection at Sage and has always been supportive. The wonderful folks at Sage—especially Marquita Flemming—helped throughout the process. And I must mention all the individuals who contributed “data”: the people who participated in discussions about effective meetings, who let me observe their meetings, and who reflected on the meeting process. All of them made an immeasurable contribution.

    What has been rewarding since the publication of the first edition is the communication I have had with readers from around the country. Many of them have tried to put into practice the ideas presented here and have shared their experiences with me. Time after time, they have expressed amazement at how much better they have become at the “meetings game.” And even more, how much this proficiency has expanded the quality of their decision making. That feedback has been very rewarding. I have made notes of their suggestions over the years and have incorporated them in this expanded version.

    Putting together a book involves lots of work. Roxanne Loy and Diane Devlin of the School of Social Work Faculty Support Office helped get me a disk of the book from which I could work. Then Terri Torrko worked her magic—she is an editorial genius—and not only improved the material but found errors that had previously been missed. Thank you.

    I also want to thank my wife, Penny, with whom I discuss all these concepts and whose insight and observations add an immeasurable richness to the volume. My children, Sarah, Jessica, and Matthew, are adult professionals who have also contributed their insights from health care, grants management, information science, music, and orchestra management.

    As our family has grown with grandchildren Jared, Evelyn, and twins Daniel and Ethan, time to be with family seems ever more important. The more efficient and effective my own meetings are, the more time I have to “grampolate.”

    And the better decisions that we make in our meetings, the better the decisions we'll have to pass along to future generations.

    JohnTropman, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Appendix A: Writing Samples

    High-Quality Decisions

    3568 River Pines Drive • Suite 100

    Ann Arbor, MI 40103 734 • 663-3411

    John E. Tropman, Ph.D.

    President

    Sample Agenda

    Memo to: Staff

    Memo from: John

    Re: Staff Meeting

    Date: Monday, 10:00–12:00

    1. Announcements Penny, Sarah, Matt, Jessica, Jared, Evelyn, Daniel, Ethan10:00–10:10
    2. Minutes from last Monday's meeting10:10–10:15
    3. Easy Items (Discussion and Decision)10:15–10:35
    3a. Office decoration—Penny Review of new furniture10:15–10:25
    3b. New software—MattMatt recommends MS Office 200010:25–10:35
    4. Moderately Tough Items (Discussion and Decision)10:35–11:05
    4a. Training and consultation coverage—Sarah Holiday/vacation coverage10:35–10:50
    4b. Film archives—JessicaReview and approval of new information system (Attachment A)10:50–11:05
    5. The Toughest Item (Discussion and Decision) 5a. Hourly versus batch pricing—Penny A proposal to use both hourly and batch pricing methods (refer to previous report)11:05–11:30
    6. Blue Sky Items (Discussion Only) Looking at new markets11:30–12:00
    6a. The music business—Matt
    6b. Libraries and museums—Jessica
    6c. The health care system—Sarah
    6d. Child Care—Jared and Evelyn
    6e. Mothers of Multiples—Daniel and Ethan

    Snack follows at noon!

    High-Quality Decisions

    3568 River Pines Drive • Suite 100

    Ann Arbor, Ml 40103

    John E. Tropman 734 • 663-3411

    President

    Sample Report
    Executive Summary
    The Problem

    Key material in the firm is stored in several locations. A master file system has not as yet been set up. There is lack of understanding about what should be stored.

    The Options
    • Let things stay as they are for now.
    • Plan to revisit this problem in 6 months.
    • Ask Jessica to develop an information storage and retrieval plan.
    The Recommendations—Option 3

    Jessica should be asked to develop a plan. Any delay means more will be lost and the job is tougher.

    High-Quality Decisions

    3568 River Pines Drive • Suite 100

    Ann Arbor, Ml 40103

    John E. Tropman 734 • 663-3411

    President

    Sample Minutes
    Staff Meeting
    Monday
    • Announcements

      Penny announced the new parking lot was ready. Sarah announced a new program at Woman Health, Inc. Matt announced he would be at a software meeting on Friday. Jessica announced new materials for the library. There were no other announcements.

    • Minutes from last Monday's meeting

      The minutes for the last meeting were accepted.

    • Office decoration

      The new furniture setup for the reception suite was reviewed.

    • New software

      Matt reviewed the advantages of the new Windows suite.

    • Training and consultation coverage

      Problems have occurred in providing enough coverage for weekends, when many groups like to do training sessions. Sarah had worked out a 1.5 to 1 plan. Each Saturday/Sunday would count as 1.5 days. These days would go into a day bank; draw outs would be negotiated at Staff Benefits.

    • Film archives

      Jessica reported that there is no more room in the film archives. Some pre-1994 films need to be destroyed.

    • Hourly versus batch pricing

      Questions often come up about how to price. The idea is to price in “package” or “batch” mode for larger customers, at $1,750 per day and on an hourly (somewhat higher) rate for small ones (see report), at $250 per hour.

    Different views were expressed. Some favored the dual-rate systems. Others felt a single, hourly rate was best.

    • Blue Sky Items—New Markets

      A lively discussion of new markets (music, libraries, museums, and health care settings) was held. Each of these seemed very promising.

      More discussion will be held next week.

      • The music business—Matt

        Matt sees small bands—for example, the Brass Band of Battle Creek—as a customer.

      • Libraries and museums—Jessica

        Jessica sees the need to develop information software for nonprofits generally and libraries and museums in particular.

      • The health care system—Sarah

        Sarah pointed out that, with the health care system expanding, many project leaders need training in effective group decision making.

      • Child care—Jared and Evelyn

        Jared and Evelyn explained that there is a lot of small (ish) child care institutions that could use customized decision-making tools.

      • Mothers of Multiples—Daniel and Ethan

        Dan and Ethan pointed out that there are numbers of organizations where parents of twins and other multiples get together. That could be a great decision-making market.

    Appendix B: Sample Evaluation Sheet

    The Evaluation Process

    Have the members of the group set up an evaluation process that includes the following five main steps:

    • Goal setting—where we want to go to, by when, etcetera. What outcomes do we seek? Establish a time line (say, a year) for goal accomplishment
    • Monitoring—periodic checking in to assess progress
    • Oversight—milestone review
    • Assessment—quarterly judgments about the quality of progress
    • Appraisal—final judgment about how well the project was completed
    Keep, Stop, Start—KSS

    At the end of each meeting, pass out a sheet that asks three questions to each member:

    It will really help you!

    Decision Audit

    Take a sample of decisions from the minutes. Assign a small group from the larger group—one or two will serve—to give decisions one of the following grades:

    • An all-win decision—all stakeholders advanced, though perhaps not equally.
    • Some stakeholders advanced and some did not. On balance, however, the result is positive for the system (organization, community, or family).
    • Some stakeholders advanced and some did not. Basically, there is change in winners and nonwinners, but the overall result is neutral for the system (organization, community, or family).
    • Only a few stakeholders advanced and many did not. Overall, the result is negative for the system (organization, community, or family).
    • The nuclear-war decision—all stakeholders are worse off than previously. The system is grievously harmed.

    Present and discuss your grades with the larger group. Do not worry too much about being right. It is the discussion of the decisions and their review that really counts.

    Decision Autopsy

    Take an A decision and an F decision for examination. Ask of the A decision, what went right and how can we keep this up?

    Ask of the F decision, what went wrong and how can we avoid it in the future?

    Remember that this is not a search for blame; it is a search for understanding and improvement.

    References

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    Cohen, M., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. (1972). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1), 1–25. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2392088
    Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the crisis. Cambridge: MIT, Center for Advanced Engineering Study.
    De Tocqueville, A. (1945). Democracy in America. (H.Reeve, Trans.; F.Bowen & P.Bradley, Eds.). New York: Knopf. (Original work published 1835).
    Egan, G. (1995). Working the shadow side. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.
    Harvey, J. B. (1974). The Abilene paradox. Organizational Dynamics, pp. 17–43.
    Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    Houle, C. (1989). Governing boards. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Janis, I. (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
    Janis, I., & Mann, L. (1977). Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
    Jay, A. (1976, March/April). How to run a meeting. Harvard Business Review, 54(2), 43–57.
    Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are. New York: Hyperion.
    Kanter, R. M. (1983). The change masters. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    Katz, D., Gutek, B. A., Kahn, R. L., & Barton, E. (1975). Bureaucratic encounters: A pilot study in the evaluation of government service. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
    Lucas, G. (Producer), Spielberg, S. (Director), & Kasden, L. (Writer). (1981). Raiders of the Lost Ark [Motion Picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.
    Merton, R. (1958). Societal structure and process (
    Rev. ed.
    ). Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
    Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Naisbitt, J. (1982). Megatrends. New York: Warner Books.
    Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York: Simon and Schuster.
    Quinn, R. (1989). Beyond rational management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Rittel, W. J., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01405730
    Tichy, N., & Sherman, S. (1993). Control your destiny or someone else will. New York: Doubleday.
    Tropman, J. E. (1989). American Values and Social Welfare. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    Tropman, J. E., & Morningstar, G. (1989). Entrepreneurial systems for the 1990s. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
    Tuchman, B. (1984). The march of folly: From Troy to Vietnam. New York: Knopf.
    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
    Wetlaufer, S. (1994, November/December). The team that wasn't. Harvard Business Review, 72, 22–26.
    Zander, A. (1982). Making groups effective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Bibliography

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    Braybrooke, D., & Lindblom, C. E. (1963). A strategy of decision: Policy evaluation as a social process. New York: Free Press.
    Carver, J. (1990). Boards that make a difference: A new design for leadership in nonprofit and public organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Cleese, J. (1988, May 16). No more mistakes and you're through. Forbes, 141(11), 126–128.
    Clifton, R. L., & Dahms, A. M. (1980). Grassroots administration: A handbook for staff and directors of small community-based social service agencies. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.
    Cohen, M., & March, J. G. (1974). Leadership and ambiguity. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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    Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (Eds.). (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. New York: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511809477
    Kieffer, G. D. (1988). The strategy of meetings. New York: Warner Books.
    Kleindorfer, P. R., Kunreuther, H. C., & Schoemaker, P. J. (1993). Decision sciences: An integrated perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139173537
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    Tropman, J. E. (1982). The decision group: Ways to improve the quality of meetings and decisions. Human Systems Management, 3, 107–118.
    Tropman, J. E. (1984). Policy management in the human services. New York: Columbia University Press.
    Tropman, J. E., Erlich, J., & Rothman, J. (Eds.). (1995). Tactics and techniques of community intervention (
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    Waldo, C. N. (1985). Boards of directors: Their changing roles, structure, and information needs. New York: Quorum Books.
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    Whetten, D., & Cameron, K. (1995). Developing management skills (
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    ). New York: HarperCollins.
    Zelman, W. (1977). Liability for social agency boards. Social Work, 22(4), 270–274.
    Electronic Bibliography
    Readers are encouraged to hop on the Web and search for “effective meetings.” There are many entries available, too many to cite here. Readers can get lots of useful and customized information from this source. Therefore, I suggest the following:

    Print References

    Boorstin, D. (1965). The Americans: The national experience. New York: Random House.
    Cleese, J. (1988, May 16). No more mistakes and you're through. Forbes, pp. 126–128.
    Cohen, M., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. (1972). A garbage can model of organizational choice. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(1), 1–25. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/2392088
    Egan, G. (1995). Working the shadow side. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in eve?yd4y life. New York: Doubleday.
    Harvey, J. B. (1974). The Abilene paradox. Organizational Dynamics, pp. 17–43.
    Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.
    Houle, C. (1989). Governing boards. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Janis, I. (1983). Groupthink: Psychological studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Muffin.
    Janis, I., & Mann, L. (1977). Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflicti, choice, and commitment. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
    Jay, A. (1976, March/April). How to run a meeting. Harvard Business Review pp. 43–57.
    Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are. New York: Hyperion.
    Kanter, R. M. (1983). The change masters. New York: Simon & Shuster.
    Katz, D., Gutek, B. A., Kahn, R. L., & Barton, E. (1975). Encounters with bureaucracy. Ann Arbor, MI: I. S. R.
    Merton, R. (1958). Societal structure and process (Rev. ed.). Glencoc, IL: Free Press.
    Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organization. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
    Naisbett, J. (1982). Megatrends. New York: Warner.
    Quinn, R. (1989). Beyond rational management. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    Rittel, W. J., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01405730
    Tichy, N., & Sherman, S. (1993). Control your destiny or someone else will. New York: Doubleday.
    Tropman, J. E., & Morningstar, G. (1989). Enterpreneurial systems for the 1990s. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
    Tuchman, B. (1984). The march of folly: From Troy to Vietnam. New York: Knopf.
    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
    Wetlaufer, S. (1994, November/December). The team that wasn't. Harvard Business Review pp. 22–26.
    Wherten, D., & Cameron, K. (1995). Developing management skills (
    3rd ed.
    ). New York: HarperCollins.
    Zander, A. (1982). Making groups effective. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    About the Author

    John E. Tropman is a Professor of Nonprofit Administration at the School of Social Work and an Adjunct Professor in the Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Development Program at the University of Michigan Business School in Ann Arbor. He also teaches in the Executive Education Program at the University of Michigan Business School and in the Executive Education Program at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his undergraduate degree in sociology (major) and in government and classics (minor) from Oberlin College, his master's in social work from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in social work and sociology from the University of Michigan. He presents and consults widely on issues of effective group decision making, transformational leadership, and organizational governance.


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