20.1 Effective Meeting Versus Effective Meeting and Meetings with Added Value

Although meetings are the most effective organizational communication structure for fruitful discussions, knowledge sharing and decision making, if the operations people do not strive to make every meeting yield action items and results, the meeting may become time and resource consuming. In other words instead of a being a leverage tool for execution, a meeting can transform into a burden on activities and on execution. In every operations meeting, weekly, monthly or quarterly, objectives and KPI need to continuously rise above their existing level of performance, otherwise the meetings will not be effective, and well known knowledge and results will be replicated.

There are many technical recommendations for holding effective meetings. Setting and keeping an agenda, starting the meeting with a defined expected outcome, having a meeting chairman, having a meeting’ time keeper’ as well as several more recommendations. All of these recommendations are very important and are useful for holding effective meetings. However, although some of these procedures are common practices in the organization, those meetings results are not always tangible and do not always improve the operations performance. Sometimes forums do not focus on results and execution, and prefer detailed discussions which do not have clear operative directions. The meeting leader may impose an appearance of using all the technicalities of an effective meeting, but the core of the meeting, the important and significant added value results, might not exist. When we join a meeting or, are in charge of one, we need to ask ourselves, what are the core and long term applicable results of the discussion?

We should attend meetings after thinking about expected outcome of the meeting, and its contribution to the improvement of operations performance.

Ask yourself?

Which of meetings’ outcomes, if implemented in my department, will drive measurable improvements?

Meeting discussion that a month later does not yield measurable improvement in the operations KPIs are not effective.

We need to set a high bar regarding our role in the meeting, and have LEAN philosophy and operational excellence on our mind. In order to have a reference point for quality meeting results, we can compare every meeting we attend to a meeting whose outcome decisions became, later on, a turning point in the improvement of operations performance.

For example, a yield improvement meeting that significantly changed yield results. A cost saving discussion that brought to a breakthrough in savings, or a quality discussion whose results drove quality performance improvement. In all of those breakthrough meetings, a process or methodology was changed or developed. Similar breakthroughs are potentially hidden in almost every operative meeting.

Once we have a ‘breakthrough meeting’ a previous turning point meeting, as a reference point in our mind, we can compare it to every meeting we attend. There are also some less technical and more cultural attitudes that will drive change in the meetings’ effectiveness. For example, while attending or preparing an engineering or technology discussion, the discussion needs to be structured in a logical, known format in order to ease the meetings’ attendees’ flow of thought.

20.2 Using a Problem Solving Format in Order to Achieve an Effective Meeting

Using a problem solving format in meetings is always helpful for effective discussions in operations. The structured problem solving format helps everyone, in the meeting, stick to the same stage of the discussion. By having everyone on the same page all the time, the discussion advances in one direction and does not intuitively flow towards non-effective discussions and does not go backwards to its starting point. Furthermore, when we adhere to a problem solving format, we prevent jumping back and forth from the problem statement discussion, to the results phase or to the recommended solutions discussion.

The participants, of the meetings, role is very clear, during every step of the problem solving flow. In the ‘discussion of the problem statement’ stage, the participant’s role is, to contribute by summarizing and phrasing the problem statement. When searching for the possible root cause the role of the meetings’ members is to brainstorm and try to find the technical or technological reasons for the situation. This structured and orderly way of thinking is important in order to fulfill one logical step before starting the next one.

Figure 20.1 describes possible root causes. The principal drawing is in a fish bone shape, in order to capture different root causes according to their families, process, equipment, environment and human relativity.

Fig. 20.1
figure 1

Fish bone diagram for possible root cause brainstorm

In technical discussions adopting structured process such as the ‘seven steps of problem solving’ increases meetings’ effectiveness.

The seven steps for problem solving are:

  1. 1.

    Problem Statement,

  2. 2.

    Current Status,

  3. 3.

    Possible Root Cause,

  4. 4.

    Solutions Development,

  5. 5.

    Solution Testing,

  6. 6.

    Solution Implementation,

  7. 7.

    Documentation and periodical Check of Results.

Notes and recommendations, regarding the saving in time brought by use of problem solving for structured discussion.

Sometimes when a meetings’ participants are very confident in themselves, and in their ability to solve the problem rapidly, they may skip the systematic problem solving process. Usually in such cases, after a few weeks the meeting goes back to square one and to day one, when the event started. By then, after several days have passed, records and data are missing, and the ones that were documented or stored are partial, and cannot correlate and support the hypothesis for the solution. In such cases a huge amount of work is needed in order to start the problem solving from the beginning. This waste of resources can usually be avoided by reaching a team decision, to always apply structured problem solving methods in technical meetings, even in cases that seem very easy to solve. A structured problem solving discussion never take more of the forums’ time, than an unstructured intuitive one.

20.3 Data Driven Discussions and Ownership of Meeting Results

Another important element for creating meeting value and effectiveness, is having the discussion based purely on data. When we start our meeting with the end in mind, we need to define the owner of the discussed topic, from one of the operations departments or one of the different disciplines. The subjects’ owner needs to present the subject and own the discussions’ KPI and measurements, for upcoming meetings, for the next quarter and end of the year results.

Whether the subject is yield, material quality, parts or technology, it always needs to be discussed according to its KPI performance. It always helps to see the annual and quarterly charts of the discussed subject. Charts help the meetings’ participant focus on the discussed subjects’ monthly or quarterly trends. Major questions get answered immediately and intuitively.

For example: are quality indicators, cost saving results or customer satisfactions’ KPI trends, down?

Is their KPI performance consistent and stable?

Does the KPI performance have high fluctuation with high standard deviation?

Or, is the indicator trend stable over time?

Once the topic has been captured in a dashboard format, with color coding of the current status, and the data shows the measured subjects’ pattern in a chart, the sharing of knowledge in the meeting is very fast and efficient. The next step, brainstorming discussions, also goes fast, so the whole decision making discussion can take less than an hour, even when the discussions are in regard to complicated operational dilemmas. If data is properly collected and prepared, the ownership of the solution is clear, and the three parts of the meeting: sharing knowledge, team brainstorming and decision making, are structured, the meeting will be high quality. When a meeting is very effective and very short, it allows people to return to their work quickly and bring the solutions effectively. This is the lean way and culture, to have professional operation meetings and decision making.

Once an effective and value adding meeting’s culture is achieved, people will appreciate their time saving and they will be ambassador for structured and value meetings.