Everyone’s time is precious but we have been making the case recently that a lot can be achieved in just an hour a week (or less) spent on an improvement project. To help with this, we need to make the most of the times when we can get people together for meetings.
There are plenty of articles available that will advise on time management, how to have less meetings and how to have effective meetings. These are (sometimes) helpful, but we are interested in giving meetings* an improvement focus and getting the most from these to help support our QI activities.
(*I’m talking here specifically about routine improvement meetings – where we have brought together they key people to progress a plan, review progress and the latest data, and to work on our PDSA cycles – rather than one-off workshops or committees)
An effective meeting, that is focussed on improvement, can make a big difference in progressing the improvements that everyone is trying to make. But we also want to ensure that people who are attending will get enough out of the meeting that they want to come back next time and keep the momentum going!
Hopefully these tips will be helpful, but if you think I have missed anything, or if you disagree – please get involved in the comments section.
1 – Plan the meeting in advance
Planning for a meeting makes a big difference to the success of the outcomes. Assuming you have the right people involved (a subject for another day) there are plenty of other things to plan, including the agenda (see below), what questions we need to discuss and what decisions need to be made.
2 – Find the right location
Sounds like a small thing, but it can actually make a big difference. Try to find somewhere that is convenient, but also conducive to open conversation. Once we have the right location, try to stick to a routine of the day, time and venue. There are lots of benefits to doing this and it makes it easier for people to plan around.
3 – Start on time
My advice is to be really disciplined about this and encourage others to do the same. We can only be responsible for our own time keeping, but also try to set a good example for others.
However, as important as time-keeping is, if you are starting meetings exactly on time when you are the only one in the room, or if you are locking the door from the inside at one-minute-past the start time… you’ve probably gone a step too far.
4 – Establish an agenda at the start of the meeting
We don’t need to have a formal agenda that is typed-up and circulated a week in advance. The most effective agenda for improvement meetings are agreed in a couple of minutes at the start and consist of a few bullet points scribbled on a flip-chart.
The important thing is to be clear about the focus of the conversation, the outcomes we hope to get and to make sure everyone knows why they’re at the meeting. Adding any further points to the agenda at the start of the meeting helps with time management too.
5 -Keep papers to a minimum
Most people find it a little distracting to have lots of papers for a short improvement meeting and it can stifle an open conversation. If it helps to structure the meeting then it might be useful to table the latest version of the improvement plan (that people should already be familiar with) and some up-to-date KPIs.
6 – Give everyone the opportunity to contribute
A good, improvement-focussed meeting is free of hierarchy. Everyone is working to a common goal and it is important to recognise and value everyone’s knowledge, experience, and input. If there are alternative views or objections from any member of the team, it is best to encourage these to come out in the meeting and to address them there and then.
7 – Leave plenty of time in the meetings for whole PDSA process
Try not to fill the agenda with ‘planning’ and ‘acting’ – we need to leave enough time for ‘studying’ too. Give everyone the opportunity to reflect on ‘how are we doing?’, ‘what could we do differently?’ as these are really valuable conversations that you can only have in the time you can get people together. It is helpful to ask open questions to encourage these reflective conversations and try to leave plenty of time for these.
8 – Keep the team positive
This is not always easy when working through a tricky improvement project. So if five minutes in the meeting is spent in a completely-off-topic discussion, but it helps create a good atmosphere, that’s ok and that is not time wasted.
9 – Whenever time allows, take the opportunity to talk about improvement methodology
Talking about the why we are creating an aim statement or agreeing measures is important if it helps the team to develop their own expertise and encourages people to work independently improvement in future. My tip is to try to be clear about what the methodology is and the benefits of using it, but without lecturing people.
10 – Take notes and actions but keep them short and to the point
People should know that the actions will be recorded accurately so they can focus on the conversation. Also remember that people are short of time and they can’t be expected to read and check pages of minutes to find their actions. Take care not to overwhelm any one person with actions and remember that improvement is an incremental process!
In summary, do what you can to get the best from the people in the time that you can get them together. If we can do this we are far more likely to progress the improvements, generate good ideas and spread the QI approach.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section.