Organizational Consultation XXII: Empowerment (Part Two)
Obviously, in some instances information needs to be conveyed that is not directly relevant to the issue at hand. This information is needed to establish a context, to bring some participants up to date, or to help participants better understand the relationship of this issue to future trends or conditions in the organization. Such information should be kept to a minimum, particularly that which is historical in nature and therefore provocative of time-consuming reminiscence.
Who should be invited to this meeting? I suggest that only those who have or directly need pertinent information should be invited. Anyone who comes to such a meeting can be expected to use up some valuable airtime, whether or not they have pertinent information. For this reason, boundaries should be tightly drawn and random invitations discouraged.
Preferably, someone who is not immediately involved in the information being exchanged should facilitate any meeting intended primarily for exchange of information. This person acts as a gatekeeper, making sure that everyone has an opportunity to convey their information and gain clarification about the information being conveyed by others. The gatekeeper should help to clarify information that is being presented and identify broad themes and redundancies that reduce the amount of information that must be retained.
Several different meeting designs can be used to get information out and about in an efficient manner. First, a traditional round robin method can be employed. Going around the table, each group member shares his pertinent information in turn. While this method is widely used and accepted, it tends to be inefficient unless tight time lines are established with each presenter. Some time should be set aside after each presentation or after several presentations for questions and answers, clarification or comments. Questions and clarification regarding early presentations will be lost and forgotten if left to the end, unless it is a very small group.
A second method involves exchange of printed information. Each member of the group summarizes his pertinent information in a memorandum prior to the meeting or on a piece of newsprint at the start of the meeting. The memoranda are exchanged at the start of the meeting or the newsprint pages are posted and reviewed by all group members after being completed at the start of the meeting. Members of the group can then ask questions, make comments, or request clarification when appropriate. This method takes less time than the round robin but does not allow for the personal contact and subtle nonverbal shaping of ideas and opinions that accompany oral presentations. Furthermore, each written presentation is prepared in isolation from the others, thereby reducing the capacity of later presenters to recognize redundancies of information and thereby delete portions of their report.
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