When working with a team, you know it’s important to bring them together for collaboration. But sometimes these sessions can feel like they’re suffering from BOGSAT syndrome – i.e. “Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Talking.” Unproductive, meandering. A waste of everyone’s time (and the client’s money).
The key to avoiding getting mired in pointlessness, according to management consultant and CEO of Executive Leadership Group, Inc., Wendi Peck, is a structured process to ensure decisions and outcomes are the best ones.
“Many times, especially with senior leaders, they are used to having meetings, but not used to real collaboration,” she says. “This requires good design prior to the session and good facilitation during it. Unless collaboration is structured, it can become a free-for-all where the most senior person does all the talking and nothing productive is accomplished.”
She offers the following tips for avoiding BOGSAT and enhancing collaboration at your next client meeting:
• Spend a lot of time designing meetings, workshops and sessions. Start by asking yourself “what’s the point?” of each collaboration. In other words, name the specific desired outcome you’d like to achieve and then work backwards from there.
• Identify the various techniques (e.g. silent brainstorming, nominal group technique, multi-voting, etc.) you want to use to help build buy-in for whatever the outcome or direction of the collaboration needs to be. Decide on which you’ll use ahead of time. Keep in mind, you’re trying to get the wisdom of the crowd without getting group-think.
• Think about what you need from participants by the end of the meeting. For instance, are you simply trying to inform and educate them, are you trying to collect ideas, or are you trying to get them to take action? This will impact how you structure the collaboration and the kinds of questions you’ll ask.
• Give participants a sense of achievement. At various points throughout the session, let them know “here’s where we were, here’s what we achieved so far, and here’s what we’ll do next.” Checking things off lists gives people a sense of satisfaction. It shows them you’re not simply talking; you’re actually achieving something.
• Tell leaders to speak last. When the most senior leader tries to facilitate things, problems can ensue. True collaboration needs to be facilitated by an unbiased source, which is why, in some cases, you may need to tell leaders – before the session – to speak last and keep a poker face in the meantime. You may even want to collaborate with them ahead of time and let them know you are going to purposely disagree with them so that the rest of the team feels comfortable doing the same.
• Walk away with decisions made and then incorporate everything discussed – along with any additional thoughts and comments – into a written document delivered to the client.