Competing September 2007 Meetings: a cure or a symptom?


I bet you have wasted many hours in meetings that added no value. Most meetings are called to solve a problem such as:
1) Personnel issues?
2) A performance issue?
3) Customer service issues?
4) Quality issues?
5) Safety issues?
6) Legal issues?
7) Financial issues?

If we look at Shingo’s Wastes and consider our experience with meetings “waiting seems to be the best fit (though “incapable process” could fit as well). We sit too long accomplishing too little.

Well what are you sitting there waiting for?
1) A clear and documented problem definition?
2) A clearly defined objective attendees agree on?
3) Effective problem solving where “it’s not who is right, it’s what is right

4) Clearly defined and measurable possible solutions?
5) An action plan that includes:
A. An objective
B. A measurable goal(s)
C. The team leader and team assigned
D. Budget $ if necessary
E. Expected completion date
F. Application of the “scientific method Dr. Demings Plan>Do>Check>Adjust cycle

Before calling a meeting ask yourself and your colleagues the 5 why’s.

Let’s apply Toyota’s “5 Why’s to a proposed meeting:

John (assembly line supervisor): I want to call a meeting about the poor performance my line has had recently.
Mary (John’s Manager/boss): Why?
John: Because we haven’t been able to produce the 100 units per shift expected of us.
Mary: Why?
John: Well George and Martin are too slow and Connie’s quality is a problem.
Mary: Why?
John: I think George and Connie don’t care and Martin is just too slow
Mary: Why do you think George and Connie don’t care?
John: I’m not sure, but they have really gone down hill in the last few months.
Mary: Why?
John: Well we have had some trouble with our insert vendor sending us poor quality work and making late shipments.
Mary: John, I would like you to spend tomorrow morning directly observing the line and document each stoppage, the reason and the time. Then we can discuss the situation.

This illustrates the power of Toyota’s “go see philosophy, a philosophy that quickly gets to the heart of the problem and requires the “doers” to participate. During the observation time, after explain why he was observing the process, John would be work with the operators, using their experience and expertise, to help clarify the problem and develop possible counter-measures.

I have found applying the Toyota based Kaizen process to meetings works very well. Here are some meeting guidelines:

Some guidelines:
1) Ask the 5 Why’s to justify calling a meeting
2) Start on-time and end on-time
3) Stay focused, do not expand the scope or objective
4) Use Deming’s “scientific method: plan>do>check>adjust to monitor progress and illustrate problems rapidly
5) Don’t be afraid to fail. Change means some failure. The PDCA cycle will help here.
6) Have fewer, shorter meetings

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