Two Things to Do After Every Meeting

With thanks to: Paul Axtell

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Steve Jobs insisted that every item on a meeting agenda have a designated person responsible for that task and any follow-up work that happened. He called that person the DRI—the Directly Responsible Individual. He knew the public accountability would ensure that a project or task would actually get done, and he wanted to set clear, organized instructions for his team to follow.

It sounds simple enough, and yet the majority of managers and leaders completely fail to do this. We’ve all left meetings feeling good about what we discussed only to later wonder why so little happened as a result. Where did the momentum go?

There are a number of reasons why the productive conversations in a meeting seemingly go nowhere. Attendees are often immediately running to another meeting where their attention shifts to a new set of issues. Or people leave the meeting without clarity about what was agreed upon.

To make sure productivity doesn’t slow after you walk out of the room, do two things after and in between meetings: Quickly send out clear and concise meeting notes and follow up on the commitments made.

Meeting notes

As the Chinese proverb goes, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” If you don’t capture the conversation and put into a form that can be easily retrieved later, the thinking and the agreements can be lost.

Meeting notes aren’t a necessary burden. They’re a powerful way to influence others. They help inform people who weren’t there about what happened and remind those who were there about what agreements they made. You can use them to keep everyone on the same page and focused on what you all need to get done before you meet next.

If you are working to reduce the number of people who attend your meetings, the notes take on more importance because people love to be included and informed. Sharing a summary of the meeting is an important part of working on engagement.

Here’s what works: Distribute concise, clear notes about the meeting. Historically, minutes were like court transcriptions, capturing everything that was said during the meeting. This is not what you want. A single page will suffice for most meetings. The intent is not to re-create the discussion but to capture the key points and the specific commitments for each topic, so that non-attendees have a sense of what happened and all have a record of who will take further action.

These notes should state each topic you discussed, the key takeaways, and a list of specific actions that will be taken, by which people, and by when.

Write and distribute the meeting summary within 24 hours, if not sooner. Your ability to remember and capture the essence of each conversation lessens with each passing hour. Sending the summary out within an hour or by the end of the day also demonstrates a sense of urgency.

Follow up on commitments

Persistence is a key influence skill. If you want anything to happen, you must follow up, follow up, and follow up.

A university president once asked me to come do a training for a group of faculty and alumni because he thought they lacked leadership skills. He had pulled the group together two years prior to discuss starting a new school of journalism. They had a productive meeting and everyone was excited about the project. He had told them he was willing and able to provide whatever support they needed as they got the initiative off the ground. But two years later, nothing had happened and the president was convinced it was because the people in that meeting didn’t have the right skills.

But, in reality, he didn’t have a new journalism school because he hadn’t followed up. If he’d checked in with the group two weeks after the meeting, then followed up every few weeks until the project was up and running, it likely would’ve been a different story. Perhaps he would’ve learned that people in the room did have some skill deficits but he could’ve helped take care of those while they pushed the project forward.

Often managers, like this president, think that people are self-starters—natural leaders who only need an idea and the autonomy to pursue it. Talented, committed people do not always do what they say they will do, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t. People are pulled in all different directions and overwhelmed with too much work. If you want a project to be completed, you have to follow up closely and consistently. Otherwise, rich ideas easily fall by the wayside.

Some managers are concerned that close follow-up might be interpreted as micromanaging. They don’t want to be accused of not trusting people to perform. In reality, consistent follow-up is a necessary part of project leadership.

Here’s what works:

  • At the end of each topic in a meeting, pause to agree on next steps and establish specific commitments with clear deadlines.
  • Let people know they can negotiate at the time they make the commitments, especially with regard to due dates.
  • Don’t use the automatic “by the next meeting” as the due date. Be thoughtful about what timing make the most sense.
  • Make clear that you expect each commitment will be fulfilled as agreed upon, and if something comes up, you expect they’ll reach out to discuss the change.
  • Assign someone to check in at appropriate intervals to ensure the commitments will be kept as promised or re-evaluated if something unexpected comes up.

5 Things No-One Is Telling You About Learning Games

Following on from very a successful seminar session on gaming mechanics at LT15, and the subsequent LSG webinar on the same subject, one thing has become very clear  gaming in learning is a highly controversial subject.

Some people refuse to recognise gaming as a learning medium, whereas others love the idea of using gaming, but aren’t sure where to start. Others are already embracing the chaos, and seeing impactful results, like McDonald’s. But what if games are more than just a gimmick, and could add real business value to your organisation?

Here we tackle some of the most common learning game myths and show that learning games are for everyone, not just the brave minority.

1. Games Aren’t Just For Kids

All too often we hear: “Gaming is unprofessional – my staff aren’t 16 year old Xbox fanatics, so gaming isn’t relevant for my business’ learning”.

For many, gaming is seen as being ‘childish’ or only relevant to a small minority of the workforce. In fact, there’s a lot of debate around whether gaming actually has a place in workplace learning at all…

This is by far the most common concern around introducing gaming into workplace learning. We know that perception of the validity of a game within an organisation is critical, particularly when it comes to compliance or mandatory training.  What if only Gen Y want to play the games you design?

Trust us, everyone wants to play games.

When used in the right context, gaming can have a place – as long as it is serving a purpose (and not just there because the Learning Designer thought it was time to design a game). Use elements of what makes games work, and embed those elements into your learning design.

The compliance piece is still there, but now it becomes challenging, engaging and (dare I say it) fun to complete. Age is just a number, and as long as you’re incorporating the key mechanics of great gaming design such as competition and reward, learners will keep on coming back for more, regardless of how old they are.

After all, isn’t designing a piece of learning that staff enjoy and actually want to do the holy grail of elearning design?

2. Your Organisation Can Embrace Gamification

First things first: we need to tackle this whole ‘gamification’ thing and the stigma that surrounds it.  If you know you will get pushback for suggesting a game element to your organisation, simply don’t call it a game (‘G-word’ probably isn’t a viable option either).

Sounds simple, but it works. For years the RAF have been covertly using games (and saving money) when training pilots.

Do you think RAF pilots would say that they play games to learn? No, they would say that they use ‘simulations’ or ‘scenario-based learning’  but aren’t those just different words for games? Both are perfectly acceptable forms of learning, which, as it happens, rely totally on gaming mechanics to make them work successfully.

The flight simulators that they use simulate the real world. They grant the user the opportunity to practice their skills in a ‘safe’ environment, and, with practice, help them to improve their performance, or hone their skills.

Would trainee pilots say the simulators they use are childish or patronising? Of course not, but then their bosses probably don’t have that opinion either. The RAF recognises the benefits of letting learners try, try, and try again, in a safe environment whilst offering constant and immediate feedback, to achieve better results when it really matters.

Aren’t tangible outcomes and better results what we are all trying to achieve when we design a piece of learning? Regardless of whether it’s called a learning game or not, we should be focusing on learning outcomes and results, not what the learning is called.

3. Learning Games Don’t Have To Be Expensive

It is a myth that games need to be multi-million dollar 3D extravaganzas. Asteroids didn’t have that in the 80s, nor does Candy Crush today. Both have proven to be hugely successful games that people continue to come back to. It is all about the game mechanics, not the whizz-bang and bling bling…

As learning games don’t necessarily have to rely on the use of the highest-end kit, graphics or sound to make them effective, you can use gaming in your business for less than you might imagine.

Even if you are creating your own learning in-house, you can use elements of gaming design that will enhance your elearning at no additional cost, other than, perhaps, investing a little more time at the design planning stage.

4. You Can Design Games That Will Meet Learner’s Expectations

You may be thinking that by creating learning games, you have made a commitment to deliver the next Grand Theft Auto; and you may be worried that learners have high expectations about what a game should offer.

However, their high expectations are not necessarily what you might imagine them to be. Our feedback tells us that, in general, learners are looking for something that makes them ‘feel’ how they do when they play those more complex, Hollywood-inspired games.

It seems that whizzy 3D graphics and surround sound don’t necessarily make a good game; rather the logic employed, the sweep of a perfectly judged learning curve, the story telling level design – basically the mechanics of the game, are what makes a game the experience that people love.

When you are considering the look and feel of a learning game, why not ask your users for their input. Second guessing your audience’s perceptions can cost you hours in wasted time.

They already know what works for them, so tap into that knowledge.

5. You Can Prove the Business Value of a Learning Game

At City & Guilds Kineo, we are often asked if games actually add any value to a learning journey. We all know that measuring the ROI of any piece of learning is never a straight forward process, and using gaming is no different.

Before we look at how to measure ROI, we need remind ourselves of the benefits to the learner that using a game/simulation can bring. A key point to remember is the ability to practice  and make mistakes  in a safe environment, prior to being let loose in ‘the real world’.

To demonstrate the impact a game has on the business, we need to look beyond the traditional, “how many people have completed it” measure, and look at actual business results that have changed since the users completed the learning. Allowing learners to practice, by using game mechanics, helps to change behaviours, rather than just increase knowledge.

Because of this, test results aren’t a good measure for ROI – instead we need to look at wider business results to indicate a culture change. This could be an increase in sales, customer satisfaction scores, reduced staff turnover or other success indicators your business may have.

This is exactly what McDonald’s did. Using pre-existing data, they adopted a simple model to help measure the success of the Till Training Game (and the results were astonishing).

Game On – But Hedge Your Bets

The key here is gradually progressing with learning games.  Your industry may not be ready to jump head-long into gaming just yet, but you could definitely be ready to adopt a range of gaming mechanics into your elearning.

So don’t go all in: you need to crawl and walk before you learn to run. Instead, why not pick your favourite gaming element and subtly add it into your next learning design? Measure the results and that just might be enough to convince those budget holders to commit to a learning game next time round.

Simple things like including a league table based on the results from a compliance quiz, or increasing the difficulty as a user works through a number of scenarios are simple techniques that make a difference to your learners’ experience, all thanks to games and gaming mechanics.

And if the boss asks, just don’t mention the ‘G’ word.

If you’re interested in talking to us more about how learning games could make an impact in your organisation, get in touch. We’d love to help.