A silent meeting is worth a thousand words [Ricau/Henry]
I’ve been writing this blog long enough that seeing thoughtful organization practices slowly propagate through the business ecosystem bring me true joy.
The latest example:
More than 4 years ago, in June 2014, I covered Jeff Wiener’s “A simple rule to eliminate useless meetings” in which he discussed his adaptation of the same meeting practice Jeff Bezos gets credited for pioneering. It was the 4th blog post that I’ve authored. This is my 244th.
It’s one of the facilitation principles that truly stuck with me over the years, and one that I’ve brought with me to every organization I was part of. While I always use it with discretion (it’s not always the right solution…), I’ve seen it work wonders for groups ranging for the executive team to R&D all hands with more than 100 participants.
My primary motivation for using it has mostly been pragmatic efficiency: meaningful dialogue requires shared context, and it’s better to do that through self-paced reading (rather than walking people through slides) and better to do it as part of the meeting container (since not everyone will get a chance to read something in advance).
Py’s post, channeling Alyssa Henry’s perspective on it, adds another important dimension: increasing inclusion and better harvesting the team’s diversity by giving everyone a chance to react to the content, in writing, at their own pace. In that way, it complements the verbal part of the meeting, that has some inherent bias towards participants that are physically present and ones that think quicker on their feet.
A pure silent/written meeting has its drawbacks as well: we usually write less than we can say (some context gets lost), written reacts seem to run a higher risk of turning passive-aggressive (at least in my experience), and some people need the space to think out loud in order to formulate their perspectives.
A combination of the two pieces: a silent/written part, and a verbal part, can be designed to harness the best of both worlds.