I didn’t intend to write this article. I didn’t even want to write this article. But I didn’t want to leave last week’s article as the end to the series that I’ve been working on. There was somewhat more to be said, and in particular some specifics to be explored about tools. To be clear, I endorse none of the tools that I mention. But I’m curious about several of them.
One of the essential challenges in successfully facilitating remote meetings is that—to put not too fine a point on it—they are online. Our normal meeting software is great for seeing and hearing the other person—as long as they don’t forget to unmute themselves—but for the most part that is all we get. If we want a different level of interaction, we need to think differently about what engagement looks like. The good news is that there are an enormous number of options with which to do exactly that.
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. […]
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.
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.
It is not entirely clear how long it will be before people are comfortable inhabiting meeting rooms again, even for very short and focussed interactions. Which raises some fundamental questions about how we go about having strategically important conversations. Our current reality changes how we facilitate, how we interact and how groups explore, unpack and resolve complex and messy questions. In trying to figure out alternative strategies, there are some fundamental problems that need to be solved.