Welcome to our first article dealing with anti-patterns of everyday business practise. We’ve received many positive comments to previous issues highting solutions to patterns of inefficiency, so we decided to raise awareness of another widespread pattern today.

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Meeting Paralysis

In this article, we spoke about the In-Line Engine pattern of inefficiency which creates the appearance of productivity but fails to produce anything but hot air. A related pattern is meeting paralysis which happens in two phases:

  1. After often tough discussions, meeting fatigue sets in, and decisions are confirmed by nods of heads to finally bring the meeting to a close. Consequently, measures aren’t systematically tracked and thus become forgotten or reinterpreted. This occurs completely unconsciously – and without harmful intent. This pattern tends to creep into companies over years completely unnoticed.
  2. Subsequently, plenty of time is lost at the next meeting refreshing the memory of the participants, bringing new participants up to speed and discussing anew the decisions which have meanwhile been altered or watered down. At the end of these meetings, only two people are talking to each other and neither dares to say that the discussion is no longer serving any purpose.

Viciously, all of this doesn’t really feel like paralysis: You’re still talking with one another! Yes, it may be slow and sluggish, but … isn’t this the same everywhere? — It is not, of course. Patterns of inefficiency creep in so slowly that, over time, they seem completely normal. Sometimes they’re even considered to be part of a “cultivated corporate culture.” There are however simple ways to counteract them — if you act in a consistent manner.

Alignment Incentive: Logs & Red Cards

A combined strategy has been proven effective to counteract the paralysis — and it works best when it is carried out fast, focussed and without compromise.

  1. Introduce a decision log: A list of the decisions taken which can be seen by all those involved. Memorize the key sentence: “If it isn’t worth being written down, it isn’t a decision.” What form the logbook takes is not important: It can be a document hosted on the intranet, a notice on the blackboard, or a pinned note in a Slack channel. What’s important is that there’s exactly one list so the staff don’t have to collect the information from meeting minutes or e-mail archives.
  2. Just as measurable results need to become a positive criterion for meetings and reports (see this article), irrelevance must become a negative criterion: As soon as a discussion in a meeting threatens to come to an end due to fatigue, red-card it – literally! We’ve already equipped some of our clients with sets of red cards, and the results are just as startling as they are impressive.

Free: A simple tool to banish meeting paralysis.

Send an e-mail to contact@alstracon.com to receive your complimentary set of red-and-black cards – an efficient tool to make an end to meeting paralysis.

What’s Motivating Us

Individual companies of a company group often operate in the market together, but with extremely different access to markets. We are currently accompanying a strategy development project by consolidating the product and sales strategies and by elaborating on how the group’s market presence can be better defined as a whole through better integration of the individual companies.