Meetings, Bloody Meetings: Don’t Make Decisions

This week I’m doing a series on meetings and how we can have better meetings by applying ideas from complexity science. Together we’ve been tackling one central question:

How do we approach meetings in a way that reflects the complexity with which leaders are dealing?

The following ideas are only conjecture and have not been subject to rigorous testing, but that’s the joy of blogging: I don’t need “evidence” to write something. At the same time, I pride myself on my rigor, so I invite your experimentation and feedback. Perhaps together we can build a case for complexity meetings – even though the very term seems a bit intimidating.

Idea #1: Don’t Make Decisions

As a vice president of a large, complex hospital system, I had a CEO who insisted that the executive team not make decisions during our meetings. We all thought he was crazy and it was frustrating, but his point was sound and eventually won out.

If you are at that table, you have responsibility for a significant portfolio. You are also well paid to lead your portfolio and to make decisions for that portfolio. You don’t do this in isolation but rather after significant off-line thought and discussion with colleagues about alignment with mission and values (a form of self-referencing that is central to complex systems), implications, potential consequences (both intended and unintended) and above all an awareness of the systems implications of such a decision. Heifetz would call this “the balcony view.”

So, instead of making decisions, executive teams would have the time and space for reflective action as they give the system time and space to allow change to emerge.



Peter_bio2Peter Dickens
Peter Dickens is passionate about leadership and change. He helps people and organizations that serve others to revitalize their leadership and ministry at Follow Peter on Twitter (@Dr_PeterDickens).

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