How effective are meetings for organisational knowledge management, and how can they be improved?

RealKM Magazine
Jun 11 · 4 min read
  1. The conversational analysis (CA) framework is representational, interactive, and more communicatively-centered (micro level). The CA literature studies meetings as collaborative actions, rather than as a product of individual actors within organizations. The sociological nature of interaction is regarded as being too complex a phenomenon to address through OC frames, with those frames seen as underestimating the power of talk to create reciprocal and self-organizing systems. CA is characterized by the analysis of turn-taking initiation and duration, topic organization (e.g. agendas), and facilitation of multimodal meetings practices (e.g. space, text, images, and actions). CA aims to understand the interactive participation that ultimately contributes to making sense of the topics that are the focus of the meeting.
Comparative Themes in Organizational Communication, Conversational Analysis, and Libraries
Comparative Themes in Organizational Communication, Conversational Analysis, and Libraries
Figure 1 (click to enlarge). Comparative Themes in Organizational Communication, Conversational Analysis, and Libraries (source: Rathmel 2019).

Meeting effectiveness strategies

From Rathmel’s analysis, the following findings in regard to improving the effectiveness of meetings as a knowledge management tool emerged.

Critical strategies:

  • Most effective strategies. The two most effective meeting strategies were found to be using agendas and fostering mutual involvement in discussion.
  • Agendas and timeframes. The use of agendas was found to be effective regardless of size or length of the meeting, and especially when timeframes are designed to ensure the successful completion of agenda items.
  • Mutual involvement. Strategies like balancing or soliciting meeting participant involvement in discussion also proved a standard, effective practice across meeting sizes. However, meeting size and length did influence whether participant involvement occurs, so as meeting size increases, greater attention to strategies for mutual involvement is important.
  • Facilitation skills. These findings suggest that organizations would benefit from training meeting participants in facilitation skills, regardless of whether meetings designate a single facilitator role.

Other important strategies:

  • Punctuality. Starting and ending meetings on time is important, to avoid wasting participants valuable time.
  • Feedback loops. The majority of organizations determine meeting participation based on hierarchy rather than on needs, which suggests the importance of incorporating feedback loops before, during, and after meetings.
  • Hierarchies and silos. An over-reliance on meetings that are created (or otherwise function) through hierarchical constructs perpetuates a silo mentality.
  • Flexible structures. The flexibility of the structures associated with a meeting can act to either facilitate or stifle opportunities for feedback loops. These structures include the agenda content, the order of the agenda items, the meeting roles (chair, facilitator, expertise, power), and the hierarchical divisions in the organization.

Moving forward:

  • Foundation knowledge. A first step towards more effective meeting practice is for the members of organizations to gain a better understanding of the relationship between meetings and the knowledge management cycle, as shown in Figure 2.
  • Master meeting calendar. Organizations can prepare a master calendar of meetings, which will help to reduce meeting load fatigue and therefore improve meeting effectiveness. The calendar can facilitate consideration of the meeting loads of individuals and groups, and allow for meetings to be more reliably convened on particular days each week or month, and at certain times of the day.
  • Resources for meeting effectiveness assessments. Having a dedicated knowledge manager, organizational development department, or staff resources to support effective assessments could help those interested in applying OC and CA approaches to be able to do this.
  • Resources for further research. Greater investment in research into meeting effectiveness is needed.
KM Cycle Mapped to Meeting Effectiveness
KM Cycle Mapped to Meeting Effectiveness
Figure 2 (click to enlarge). KM Cycle Mapped to Meeting Effectiveness (source: Rathmel 2019).

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