Monthly Archives: May 2015

Parkinson’s Law and Board Growth

Back in the 1950s, you remember those don’t you, C. Northcoate Parkinson wrote an essay and then a book where he asserted that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

He later applied this to bureaucracies, where he noted that “the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy rose by 5-7% per year irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”

These assertions have been found to be so universally true that they have been elevated by many to the level of a natural law. Continue reading Parkinson’s Law and Board Growth

Tight Meetings II – The Lightning Round

Lightning_over_Cape_Town_by_Waz7710Do your board or staff meetings run on forever, even after you follow the advice in my prior post? Now is the time to move to the nuclear option: the lightning round!

Some meetings are designed to make announcements and allow everyone to communicate to everyone else what  is going on. But these meetings can quickly get out of hand. Staff meetings are the prime example.

Some people just like to talk. It may be their only chance. Some people just want all the attention. Some may want to impress. Some just use the meetings as for emotional support [male eye-rolling here.] But even small meetings can drag on forever. Hence, the lightning round!

What is it?

You go around the room. Each person has a fixed, very brief amount of time to say what the rest of the group needs to know.

I mean brief. I have seen some at 90 seconds and some at 3 minutes. It depends on the individuals, the topic matter, and the time available. IMHO, shorter is better, although some groups will not be able to handle 90 seconds at the start. Remember, 12 people at 3 minutes each is 36 minutes.

This helps to bound the meeting and to focus the speakers on what is really important…and it can be fun.

Key Tips

1. Use a timer, controlled by the Chairman / manager / facilitator. I like to use a timer app on my smartphone, with a very loud alarm tone.

2. You can hit the pause button if someone interrupts the speaker with a question. You should suggest to the questioner that they hold the question until after the lightning round. Some will squirm.

3. Keep a list of follow-up items. These are things that need further discussion after the lightning round. This also gives you time to frame the discussion or to plan for removing the discussion to a smaller group after the meeting.

4. You may have to back off. While most of your attendees will love this, there are some that just cannot handle it, for the reasons listed above. There are two things you can do. First, ask if it’s okay to try it for a few meetings. This gives time for the practice to become part of the culture. You will find that the discussions become shorter as people learn to focus on the important points. Second, be more intentional in your one-on-ones. Your people will be confident that they will have your attention at some point and less likely to waste the group time to get it.

Try it! Yes, it is fun!