Organizational Consultation XXIII: Empowerment (Part Three)
Both sets of guidelines talk about the need for careful pre-meeting planning, clarity about the purpose of the meeting, and the use of effective group process skills. The Ten Commandments speak, in addition, to the basic consideration of whether a meeting is actually needed, and, if it is needed, how to keep it short. Stand-up meetings are being used with increasing frequency to reduce the time needed not only to set up the room, but also to provide an inducement for the group members to keep their comments short and the meeting brief. They are faced with the fatiguing prospect of standing in one place for an extended period of time!
The Ten Commandments also speaks to the basic consideration of group size. A smaller group is usually a more efficient and effective group, provided the group is large enough to encompass all or most of the required areas of information and expertise. The Ten Commandments suggest that careful consideration be given to whether or not each person should be invited to the meeting. Group members are more likely to feel appreciated if they have been specifically invited to the meeting and if the reason for their invitation can be clearly articulated by the person convening the meeting.
The basic considerations being offered in the Ten Commandments are particularly important in many American organizations, where the norms of democracy and accessibility dominate. It is hard in this day and age to declare that a meeting is not needed, for this usually implies that one person will be taking a unilateral course of action on a particular matter. It is also difficult to not invite someone to the meeting, for this usually implies that this person’s opinions are not worth consideration by the group. Thus, while these basic considerations are important, they do not yield easily to solution in contemporary organizational environments. George Huber offers several suggestions concerning ways to get around these difficulties. He offers a detailed set of guidelines, as well as providing specific suggestions regarding how these guidelines might be made operational.
Huber begins with a set of guidelines that should be used in deciding if a group should be used, and, more basically, if other people should be involved in the consideration of a specific issue. He suggests that others should be brought in if: (1) “increased availability or processing of information would increase the quality of the decision;” (2) “acceptance or understanding of the decision might be an issue;” or (3) “developmentally useful information or skills would result from involvement in the decision process.” Other individuals should not be brought into the process if “it appears that the time necessary to involve certain individuals or groups is not justified given the advantages.” Furthermore, others shouldn’t be brought in if “it appears that the final decision will be an unpopular one, and if it appears that the consequent damage to a subordinate’s relationship with his or her peers would not be justified by the advantages to be gained from his or her involvement.”