How many times do you sit around a conference room table with several other people to hold yet another boring, unproductive meeting?
Conference tables were not designed to foster real work; they are only good for certain kinds of discussions. The fact of the table limits how people work when seated around it. You might have one person standing, leading or writing on a flip chart, but most of the time everyone is seated. It is only conducive to one-at-a-time talk and sequential activity, both of which are time-wasters.
To get more work done collaboratively, ditch the big, impressive conference table. Invest in some modular furniture on wheels that you can configure, move, and reconfigure according to what you need to do. Here’s an example of one we use:
It can masquerade as a real conference table if that’s what we need, but you can see it’s really four tables that can be pulled apart and rolled around, moved to other rooms, or accommodate multiple teams working together. You don’t need expensive furniture, however–functionality is far more important than style!You need white boards and/or flip charts all around the room, preferably with wall space to post large pages of work in progress. Here’s a picture of one team within a meeting, reviewing work they and others have produced on white boards.
Which brings me to the issue of “the room.” Most “conference rooms” are just large enough to accommodate the table and chairs, some technology, and maybe a sideboard for refreshments. There’s no room for people to be up and moving around or working in 2s or 4s on a piece of an issue; there’s no room for more than one whiteboard mounted on a wall.
If you currently have that kind of room, take a hard look at your space. Can you move a wall to make this room bigger? Is there any kind of other space–even if it is public space, such as a large break room, work room, or central reception area, that could be re-purposed for meetings that get work done? If you have cubicles in your space, can you move some of them into the space now devoted to a conference room and use the more open space for collaborative work space? If not, consider partnering with another company in your building to share this kind of space.
You have to consider the need for privacy–of your meeting group or surrounding workers who are not part of the meeting occasion, and be aware of introducing too much noiseor distraction into the workplace. However, in my experience, people find group work energizing and typically no more intrusive than other kinds of noise that occurs in their workspace. If you are doing very private work, find a way to move the meeting offsite or into a more private space.
Finally, explore what collaborative meeting spaces are available for rent in your area. Here’s one example in Chicago: Workspring. If your team is not accustomed to doing collaborative work during a meeting, I urge you to introduce them to a new space that by itself will invite them to try new methods of getting work done together.
This is Blog Post #1 of a 10-post series devoted to “How to Get More Work Done in Meetings and Make More Money.” Stay tuned for the rest of the series.