I recently attended a somewhat long and somewhat productive meeting debriefing all of the complex issues in holding a professional development event for 250 people. On the long ride home, my colleagues and I discussed and debriefed the actual meeting. We agreed that it was essential to have all of the stakeholders (chair-people from facilities, keynote, lunch, vendors, speakers, etc.) in the room to get the feedback and suggestions that we needed to plan for next year. The problem was, however, that some of the stakeholders, in their passion for their portion of the program, became squeaky wheels. Rehashing of certain issues took up much of our time. Does this sound familiar?
Technically, this meeting was supposed to be governed by Roberts Rules which provide “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 purpose of these guidelines, according to Robertsrules.org, is to provide for a full and fair working through of the issues involved before making a decision or plan of action.
Most staff meetings are run in a lot less formal way than Roberts Rules, but still could benefit from effective strategies to ensure that issues are being given a “full and fair working through” before making a decision or developing a plan of action. The organization of this “critical thinking” is often the missing piece in meetings where the squeaky wheel can potentially hijack your time and unduly influence your actions.
Nick Gledich, one of Education Weeks “Leaders to Learn From” shared how he has given his staff a thorough and systematic approach, which has led to meetings that are a better use of their time. He and his staff use Situation Appraisal (SA), a critical thinking strategy from TregoED, to map out the current issues in his district. He states “we have developed an appreciation for asking the right questions, are more comprehensive in our probing of issues, have developed the right collaboration and end with a sound outcome.” Using SA has resulted in a creation of a folio on each school in his district including everything from facilities to achievement results.
The meeting I attended could have benefited from some simple structure to ensure that each contributor felt heard, had the opportunity to clarify and was part of developing the collaborative action plan. Simply making the discussion visible with group documentation on a chart (digital or otherwise) would have allowed stakeholders to “see” that you have heard them and that their issues were being given equal consideration in the process, cutting down on their need to become a “squeaky wheel to get the oil.”
How do you ensure that issues get a “full and fair working through?”