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When Meetings Aren’t (Completely) Meetings

Over a period of weeks, I’ve been deconstructing and exploring how we meet and make strategic decisions. Given our current pandemic reality, strategic retreats are neither possible nor desirable. My question was how they can be replicated online, and—for extra bonus points—whether it was possible for those meetings to be more effective than what we are more traditionally used to. I was cautiously optimistic at the outset. I’m now quite confident that it is actually possible.



Getting To A Decision Of Sorts

We like to think of deciding as an act of deliberate intent. In actual fact, decisions often simply happen. They emerge and evolve, or arrive at a point where they are simply accepted. All appearances to the contrary, it can be difficult to point to when a decision was actually made, how it was arrived at and by whom. This doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to improve not just the quality of decisions, but also clarity in the decision making process.



The Foundational Books

In my webinar, The Foundational Books, I promised a reading list of the 26 books that I had mentioned. This would be that list.



The Accordion Theory of Decision Making

Getting to good decisions is a product of identifying good options. And while groups will tell you that they value good decisions, their behaviour often exhibits a rush towards making fast decisions. There are several cognitive biases that influence this, and these in turn contribute to some significant barriers in generating good options. Doing that requires thinking about accordions and how they work.



Navigating Decision – Exploring What We Know

To make good decisions we require good information. The challenge is that in many instances we make decisions with incomplete and imperfect information, even where further insight was possible. Groups whose diversity should enable differences in perspective and viewpoint often gravitate to the lowest common denominator. Pressure to get to the decision and pulls on attention mean that relevant information doesn’t get the attention or consideration that it should. It doesn’t have to be this way; with a little bit of thought and planning, better process is possible and other perspectives become practical.



The Building Blocks of Decision

If we care about making a good strategic decision, then we need a capable process to get us there. In my last article, I made the argument that if we try to move normal meeting structures online, we are likely to fail. Partly that’s a product of attention span and inadequacies in online meeting technologies….
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Ride for the Breath of Life 2020

The Ride for the Breath of Life is a charity ride that I have been participating in for more than a decade. This year was to be the fifteenth anniversary of the ride in Edmonton. Given the pandemic, an in-person ride was a complete non-starter. That didn’t stop the ride from happening, and it didn’t keep me from participating.



It’s The Decision, Stupid

In thinking about how to facilitate strategic discussions in a not face-to-face environment, it is easy to treat the exercise as simply translating in-person activities into an online environment. I believe that is a trap. The reality is that even in person we don’t often conduct good meetings, and we rarely leverage the full diversity of the people at the table. For complex and messy we substitute simple and easy. In discussing strategically important questions online, that is a potential recipe for disaster.



Engaging Strategically

Strategic engagement is hard at the best of times. When we have to do it remotely while working through a pandemic, it gets that much more complicated. We often think of online meeting solutions as a poor substitute for communicating in person. Used conventionally, they arguably are. So how can we rethink how we engage in strategic conversations online in a way that makes them work exceptionally well? Some initial thoughts.



Next Webinar: Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

Decision-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. That leads to trouble, because the bullet point form isn’t capable of presenting faithful representations of every reality or every logical argument. And the root of the problem lies in the nature of the…
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