what is problem solving meetings

How to Crack the Code of Your Problems with a Problem-Solving Meeting?

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Maisha Abedin

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Imagine a scenario where your car broke down unexpectedly. Stranded and frustrated, you call a few friends. Together, you identify the problem, come up with a solution, and get back on the road. This is the essence of a problem-solving meeting at work.

When an issue arises, whether it’s a tight deadline, a project bottleneck, or a team conflict, it’s like that car breaking down. The situation is unsettling and stressful. But instead of facing it alone, you can bring your team together to tackle the problem head-on with a problem-solving meeting .

In this article, we’ll show you how you can utilize problem-solving sessions to engage your team, streamline discussions, and achieve real solutions.

Stay with us—you’ll find this incredibly useful!

What is a Problem-Solving Meeting?

A problem-solving meeting is like a team huddle where everyone comes together to tackle a tough puzzle. Whether it’s a big problem affecting the whole company or a smaller hiccup in a project, these types of meetings are all about finding answers.

Consider it a brainstorming session mixed with a strategy game plan. The goal? To figure out what’s going wrong, toss around ideas, and decide on the best way forward.

What is an Example of a Problem-Solving Meeting in the Workplace?

A perfect example of a problem-solving session would be a scenario where a company’s marketing team notices a sudden drop in website traffic, resulting in a decline in sales. To tackle this, they decided to have a problem-solving meeting.

The team members gather to identify the root of the problem. They look at recent website changes, marketing strategies, and competitor activities. In order to resolve the issue, they brainstorm ideas such as better website optimization and targeted ads.

They pick a plan, assign tasks, set deadlines, and plan how to measure progress. Feeling positive, they leave the meeting with a clear plan and are ready to act. This is how a problem-solving meeting unfolds!

Who Would Benefit from a Problem-Solving Meeting?

The purpose of problem-solving meetings is to fix problems preventing the team from accomplishing its goals. Meetings in this format are led by a leader/project manager . This person usually knows a lot about the issue or is responsible for fixing it.

The team includes members who know how the problem started and those who will be affected by the solution. When everyone has heard each other’s ideas, they can collectively come up with the best solution.

A Fail-Proof Problem-Solving Meeting Agenda

Here’s a ready-to-use agenda for your next problem-solving meeting. Customize it as needed to match the unique requirements of your company and the specific challenge you’re facing.

Start the meeting and explain its purpose.5 Minutes
Meeting Leader
Provide a concise description of the problem to ensure everyone is on the same page.5 Minutes
Meeting Leader
Define the problem clearly and get input.10 MinutesAll Participants
Share relevant data and insights.10 Minutes
Meeting Leader
Explore the root causes of the problem and identify underlying issues.15 minutesAll Participants
Generate a list of potential solutions or ideas and keep meeting notes. 10 MinutesAll Participants
Assess the proposed solutions based on feasibility, effectiveness, and potential impact.
10 Minutes
All Participants
Select the most appropriate solution by reaching a consensus or using a defined decision-making method (e.g. voting).10 MinutesAll Participants
Create an implementation plan.10 MinutesAll Participants
Establish how progress will be monitored, and schedule a follow-up meeting to review and adjust.5 MinutesMeeting Leader
Summarize the key points discussed, decisions made, and next steps. Thank attendees for their contributions..5 MinutesMeeting Leader

Best Practices to Hold a Successful Problem-Solving Meeting

Now that you have a perfect problem-solving meeting agenda ready, integrate it with the best practices for the most effective approach to any challenge.

Problem Solving Meeting Best Practices

Keep it Small and Focused

Only invite the key people directly involved or affected by the problem. Getting the right people in the room makes it easier for everyone to speak up and stay on track, avoiding unnecessary distractions.

FluentBooking can help you to keep the meeting focused by inviting only those directly involved or impacted by the issue.

Make Sure Everyone Participates

Set some ground rules at the start so everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. Assign someone to jot down notes so you don’t repeat yourselves and can keep track of everyone’s input. If possible, bring in a facilitator to guide your problem-solving meeting, ensuring practical and impactful solutions are developed.

Decide on the Best Solution Collaboratively

Have a problem-solving meeting where every team member is looking forward to throwing out ideas. Then, compare them to see which ones make the most sense and are feasible. Talk it out until you all agree on the best way forward. Take into account the pros and cons of each option and make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Keep Your Focus Outward

Remember, you’re here to solve a problem, not create new ones among yourselves. Stay focused on helping someone outside the meeting, whether it’s a customer, a colleague, or the company as a whole. Groups focusing on solving an outside problem stay united and productive. They see ideas as helpful, not personal attacks. This reduces defensiveness, making it easier to work together and improve ideas.

Be Clear about Tasks

Make sure everyone knows what they need to do after the meeting. Keep it simple and practical, with clear deadlines and responsibilities. Know what’s expected of you, what you expect from your team, and how the meeting will go down. This helps everyone work together smoothly and reduces confusion.

Follow Up and Keep Track

After the meeting, make sure everyone knows what they need to do next. Keep track of what was decided and check in later to see how things are going. Verify that progress is made towards solving the problem.

Transform Your Troubles into Triumphs!

Ever heard the saying, “a well-oiled machine”? Well, think of your problem-solving meeting as just that! It’s like the well-oiled engine that drives your team toward solutions. 

A problem-solving meeting with a well-organized agenda will keep everyone on track and ensure your meetings lead to real solutions. By sticking to a clear plan and using the smart practices discussed above, your team can tackle challenges effectively and keep improving. 

So, get ready with a solid agenda and turn your problem-solving sessions into engines of progress!

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How to Run Problem Solving Meetings

Problem Solving Meetings are oriented around solving either a specific or general problem, and are perhaps the most complex and varied type of meetings.

At problem solving meetings the outcome is often an important decision and thus these meetings can be crucial to the development of a team or product. If the wrong action is chosen, it could be hugely damaging. To make sure that this doesn’t happen at your next problem solving meeting, follow the tips provided here.

Primary Goals in Problem Solving Meetings

The goal underlying these meetings is to leave with a new strategy designed to counter a current issue preventing or hindering the team’s progress.

The key objective for problem solving meetings is to find the most optimal solution or reach the best compromise that can resolve an issue facing the group or organization. In order to do this the group first has to identify possible solutions, and then evaluate these based on relevant requirements and criteria.

Agreeing on the most optimal solution

What truly is the most optimal solution can vary a lot, depending on the setting and situation. It is important to clearly define what the problem is, as well as agree on key criteria for the solution, in order to start identifying possible options.

Sometimes the best solution is the quickest one, other times it is the one that requires the least resources, while other times the solution that brings the most long term benefits is the best alternative. If all planning decisions were made by one person, not only would the choices be uninformed, there would also be little unity around team goals and direction.

Key Roles in Problem Solving Meetings

Problem solving meetings should be oriented around issues that affect and are only resolvable by the team. If a problem is the responsibility of, or can be fixed by one person, a group meeting is likely a waste of time. However, when a singular person’s decision affects that of the entire team, it may be worth it.

The significance of a problem and the amount of group time spent solving it should be considered before calling forth any group problem solving meeting. The participant roles found in a problem solving meeting tend to vary more than most other meeting types. This is because problem solving meetings exist across such a large variety of contexts and group.

Meeting leader

Just as with decision making meetings, there is a need for direction and authority in the process of problem solving. The person in charge should either be the person with the deepest understanding of the situation or someone with the most responsibility over the outcome (i.e. the highest ranking member of the team). The leader should be able to provide the team with a general overview of the situation. They should then lead the team through the guided process.

Meeting participants

All other attendees of the meeting should be people who fall under two categories. The first is of participants who may have been involved in the events leading up to the problem. This group is not there to be blamed or criticized, but rather to provide information about how the situation was reached. In addition, this group has unique insights on how potential solutions may or may not fit with the current approach.

The second group of people who should be invited are those who will be impacted by the solution. If, for example, one subgroup of a company has to restructure the timing of their releases, representatives from other groups who will have to adapt their schedule as a result should be included.

Common Challenges in Problem Solving Meetings

Often the most successful problem solving meetings are ones that happen before a major issue arises. Taking time to identify potential future problems allows a team to have solutions immediately ready. Unfortunately, problem solving meetings are all too often done only after a problem occurs, adding a variety of challenges that would not exist in other meeting types.

Problem solving can be a particularly stressful type of group strategizing. For instance, the urgency and decisiveness that is necessary in this meeting type can lead to disagreements that wouldn’t happen if teammates were not strained.

Identifying the real problem

Identifying the true problem to be addressed can on the surface seem like a very simple task. However, different meeting participants are likely to have slightly different perspectives of what they are gathered to address. Without a common understanding of what problem they are aiming to solve, the problem solving meeting is not going to yield any productive solutions.

Intra-group conflicts

With any problem solving or decision making meeting there is bound to be some conflicting opinions on how to go forward. Because problem solving meetings are often high strung, and because of the importance of selecting a correct plan, resolving these conflicts effectively is crucial. When making group decisions, a number of different strategies can be used to reach a compromise.

Defensiveness

When any type of group decision needs to be made, participants in the process can become too attached to their own suggestion to truly consider other options. While this leads to a lot of passionate and potentially productive conversation, it can also lead members to feel personally offended when their solutions are rejected.

Time pressure

Often problem meetings are extremely time-constrained. This can be because the problem is an approaching deadline or because there was simply no time scheduled in the initial plan for a problem to arise

How to Host Successful Problem Solving Meetings

The best way to approach a problem solving meeting is to first properly define the problem and the restrictions of potential solutions. Before brainstorming solutions, evaluate them, and decide on the best one.

Identify the problem to be addressed

The first key step to solving any problem is to identify the issue at hand. Problem solving meetings are designed to address any type of situation specific to the group. Determining what the problem is may be easier if it has already become a pressing issue. However, problem solving meetings can also be designed to generate preemptive solutions to problematic situations that may arise in the future. Regardless, any problem solving meeting should begin with a discussion of the specific issues that need to be changed or resolved by the end of the meeting.

Often, when a pervasive issue exists within a group, .some members are more aware of it than others. Beginning a problem solving meeting by explicitly identifying the issue not only makes clear what the meeting goals are, but also puts all team members on the same page about the state of the group or project. Identifying this problem early on also gives the team the ability to modify the topics or members involved in reaching a solution.

Define solution requirements and restraints

Once a problem has been identified, the group should propose all possible ways to approach and resolve the issue. The reason why problem solving is often easier said than done is because of existing restraints that withhold many of the ideal options available. For example, these restrictions could involve a lack of time or a lack of corporate resources. These restraints are important to consider because problems often result as a lack of consideration for them in the first place.

Brainstorm possible solutions

To choose among feasible solutions, it is important to define not only the possible limitations but also where group priorities lie. The most effective choices are made once the team’s understanding of the most urgent aspects of a future decision have been defined. Without a realistic idea of which aspects are most important, the solutions proposed will either be unrealistic or oriented around personal opinions. This step in the problem solving methodology allows for the most important and realistic strategies to be the ones most discussed.

Evaluate top solutions

After the feasible solutions to a problem have been isolated, the group must come to a collective conclusion about the best approach. This process should involve group consideration and evaluation of proposed options. It can be important to highlight and compare potential options against each other. For example, depending on the priorities of the group, an option which extends the timeline might be preferable to one that sacrifices quality or vice versa.

Agree on a solution

The best and most appropriate options that are generated during this meeting should be approached in the same way as options within a decision making meeting. Feedback, opinions and questions about each strategy should be considered and everyone involved in the meeting should feel free to voice their opinions. The final decision should be one that is not only realistic but that puts the entire team on the same page going forward.

Better Problem Solving Meetings with MeetingSift

MeetingSift’s brainstorm activity can help determine the problem, identify restrictions, and come up with ideas for possible solutions. The polling and ranking activities can then give an overview of where the group’s opinions lie. Using these tools can relieve not only the above mentioned problems but many others that are associated with problem solving meetings.

Gather honest opinions through anonymous feedback

The anonymous contribution platform that MeetingSift provides allows for more candid feedback, as well as helping the group to focus on the issue rather than the person.

Not only does this lead participants to be less upset when their ideas are not chosen, but also to not feel like they must support one particular solution or plan just because it was proposed by someone with authority in the group. In short, MeetingSift allows for the group to focus on the problem solving process rather than office politics.

Cut meeting time with parallel input

With MeetingSift, group polls can be conducted and decisions made in a fraction of the time that it usually takes to collect that amount of information. Additionally, MeetingSift allows facilitators to time the duration of their slides and activities in order to cut down and condense unnecessary aspects of the conversation.

Efficiently identify solutions or acceptable compromises

With problem solving meetings we suggest using an empirical voting tool such as ranking or voting to choose a winner, rather than trying to find a compromise between the two. In the face of a problem at hand, it is often best to choose and stick with one dominant strategy.

Easily record and share the final solution

While these opinions should be incorporated in the process, MeetingSift reports serve as a useful tool to share the solution decisions with as many other people as possible.

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Problem Solve with MeetingSift

The best way to approach a problem solving meeting is to follow the simple steps outlined in this article.

MeetingSift  brainstorm activity can help determine the problem and opportunities, and identify restrictions related to possible solutions. The evaluate , polling, and ranking activities can quickly reveal where the group’s opinions lie.

Using these tools can relieve common challenges like time pressure, intra-group conflicts, defensiveness, and many others that are associated with the stressful nature of problem solving meetings.

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Glossary of Meeting Terms

  • Meeting Type

What is a Problem Solving Meeting?

Teams use Problem Solving Meetings to analyze a situation and its causes, assess what direction to take, then create an action plan to resolve the problem.

You can find an introduction to Problem Solving Meetings in Chapter 25 of our book, Where the Action Is . You may also want to visit the Learn More link, below, for resources to help you plan, run, and troubleshoot the specific meetings your team needs.

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Solving the Problem with Problem-Solving Meetings

Leadership development expert Jonathan Levene shares an effective tool for facilitating productive problem-solving meetings.

Jonathan Levene

Your team is facing a complex problem. So you gather everyone for a meeting, only to spend hours disagreeing on the ideal solution — with no progress toward consensus.

Facilitating productive problem-solving meetings can be challenging. You want to foster an open dialogue and gain buy-in while working toward an ideal solution. To do this effectively, it helps to understand one very important aspect of human nature: how we reason.

A Tool for Better Group Reasoning

In my work with clients, I have found that the ladder of inference* is an essential framework for understanding human reasoning, identifying opportunities, and keeping group reasoning on track. It is especially helpful when your challenge involves ambiguity or complexity.

The ladder of inference lays out the mental steps in our reasoning — from receiving data to drawing a conclusion. It also explains how we adopt certain beliefs about the world.

While our reasoning process may feel logical, our analysis at every step is always based on past experience. And everyone’s experience is different.

Here is how the ladder of inference reveals our reasoning process:

The Ladder of Inference

  • We begin with the pool of information available to us — the observable data and experiences.
  • We then select some of the information — typically that which grabs our attention or seems particularly significant — and ignore the rest.
  • Then, we interpret the information, drawing on personal/cultural meanings and making assumptions based on those meanings.
  • Finally, we draw a conclusion based on that interpretation. Over time, these conclusions inform our beliefs and drive our actions.

Our beliefs might be founded on faulty selection or interpretation of data. For example, if you have a number of memorable interactions with a few customers, you might focus on and generalize from those experiences. This leads you to certain conclusions about the entire marketplace. We all proceed through these mental steps, often subconsciously. And we’re not always aware of our assumptions.

By using the ladder of inference as a tool to expose chains of reasoning, we are better able to understand ourselves and our colleagues, find the best solutions, and overcome resistance to change.

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Your Role in Meetings of the Minds

As the moderator, your job is to:

  • Listen carefully to the views expressed.
  • Figure out what type of contribution each person is offering: belief, assumption, or interpretation.
  • Bring hidden reasoning into the open by asking questions.

For example, if a person makes an assertion about what should be done, you might ask him or her to describe the chain of reasoning that led to that conclusion.

If two people have reached very different conclusions, one or both may be missing a key subset of data. Or perhaps they are missing an interpretive lens that would lead to a new set of possibilities.

The only way to know is to ask open-ended questions, such as:

  • Can you help me understand your thinking?
  • What was your chain of reasoning?
  • What assumptions are you making?
  • What data are you basing your recommendation on?

In asking these questions, you are not challenging people or judging them. You don’t want to put anyone on the defensive. Instead, you want to bring their reasoning to light so that it becomes part of the group’s thinking.

To do so, you can reflect back on what you’re hearing: “It sounds like we’re talking about assumptions here.” Or, if someone has difficulty articulating a chain of reasoning, you might say, “Think about it, and we’ll come back to you.”

At the same time, you should consider what is  not  being said. Keep in mind that silence does not imply agreement — or that a person has nothing to say. Your goal is to understand what’s happening in people’s heads and surface ideas that have not been articulated.

Better learning and decision-making result from staying low on the ladder. By slowing down the conversation — focusing on selecting and interpreting data — you encourage the group to avoid reaching conclusions prematurely. Using the ladder of inference, you can invite more contributions. Think about the ideas that might come to light when you ask questions like:

  • Does anyone else have data that bears on this?
  • Does anyone think something different might happen if we did this?
  • Did anyone else arrive at a different conclusion?
  • Did anyone make different assumptions?

The Ladder of Inference in Your Toolbox

As a manager, you can use the ladder of inference in multiple ways. You might start by employing it yourself as a framework for structuring your  own  thinking and interactions. Then, as you become more familiar with the approach, you can introduce the ladder as an explicit standard tool in team meetings.

Once you have introduced the concept, your team will begin to take on ownership of the process. They’ll develop better habits of mind and follow your lead by probing one another’s reasoning in meetings.

Over time, the ladder can become an integral part of how you think and work. Along the way, you’ll be encouraging open-mindedness, building more effective teams—and coming up with better solutions.

*The ladder of inference was initially developed by the late Chris Argyris, former professor at Harvard Business School, and elaborated on in numerous publications including The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization (Peter Senge, Richard Ross, Bryan Smith, Charlotte Roberts, Art Kleiner).

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About the Author

Levene is a leadership coach and facilitator at Harvard Business School with over 15 years experience leading teams in product development organizations.

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How to Conduct a Problem Solving Meeting + Free Agenda

How to Conduct a Problem Solving Meeting + Free Agenda

In any business, problems and challenges are inevitable. To address these issues efficiently, conducting an effective problem solving meeting is crucial. Such meetings provide a platform for individuals or teams to collectively analyse issues, generate ideas, and make informed decisions to find effective solutions. However, conducting a problem solving meeting requires careful planning, facilitation, and an agenda that guides the discussions.

In this guide, we will explore the key steps and strategies for conducting a successful problem-solving meeting. Additionally, we provide a free agenda template that can be customised to suit your specific needs. By following these guidelines, you can foster a collaborative environment, maximise creativity, and ensure the resolution of the identified problems. Let's dive in and learn how to conduct a problem solving meeting that drives results.

What is a problem solving meeting?

A problem-solving meeting is a gathering of individuals or teams aimed at identifying, analysing, and finding solutions to specific challenges or issues. This could be business-wide or focused on a specific project. The purpose of such meetings is to collectively address problems, generate ideas, and make decisions to resolve the identified issues.

Examples of problem solving meetings

From SMES to huge global corporations, every company will hold problem solving meetings. They aren’t limited to one seniority level or department – they are a tool to be utilised whenever there is a hurdle in place. Problem solving meetings can cover:

  • Business process improvement
  • Product development
  • Project management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Customer complaints
  • Quality improvement

Who can benefit from a problem solving meeting?

Problem-solving meetings are an important part of businesses, across all departments and levels of staff. There are problem-solving meetings to suit a wide range of situations, regardless of the scale of the issue at hand. Whether it's a minor problem that requires brainstorming for a quick solution or a persistent challenge caused by a problematic employee, the fundamental principles of problem-solving meetings remain applicable. This approach proves useful in various scenarios where employees come together to collaboratively generate resolutions.

3 key elements of problem solving

A problem-solving meeting can be broken down into 3 core sections:

Analysis and understanding

Creativity and idea generation, evaluation and decision making.

Before finding a solution, it is important that the problem is analysed and thoroughly understood by all involved in the meeting. This can be completed before the meeting and presented or discussed as part of the agenda. Taking the time to analyse the problem helps in identifying underlying issues and potential complexities that need to be addressed.

Problem solving often requires meeting attendees to think outside the box and generate creative ideas. Having a whiteboard or flipchart pad and pad in problem solving meetings is crucial to help with brainstorming, exploring different perspectives, and encouraging innovative thinking.

By fostering a collaborative and open environment within the meeting, diverse ideas can be generated, increasing the chances of finding effective solutions. Creative thinking allows for the exploration of alternative approaches and can lead to breakthrough solutions.

Once potential solutions have been generated in the meeting, they need to be evaluated to determine their feasibility, effectiveness, and potential impact. Attendees will need to assess the pros and cons of each solution, considering resource constraints, and aligning the solutions with organisational goals and values. Making informed decisions based on a careful evaluation helps in selecting the most suitable solution or combination of solutions.

These three elements form a comprehensive framework for an effective problem-solving meeting. By incorporating these elements into meetings, you can approach problems systematically, increasing the likelihood of finding successful resolutions, and promote continuous improvement within your department or company.

Team problem solving around a table at work

Problem solving meeting agenda

Below is your free meeting agenda to use at your next problem solving meeting. Remember, you can adapt and customise this agenda to fit the specific needs of your company and the problem you’re addressing.

Welcome and introduction

Start the meeting by welcoming participants and briefly explaining the purpose of the meeting.

Provide an overview of the problem or challenge that will be addressed during the meeting.

Problem identification

Clearly define and articulate the problem or challenge that needs to be solved.

Allow participants to share their perspectives and ensure everyone has a common understanding of the issue.

Information gathering

Share relevant data, reports, or information related to the problem.

Discuss any research or analysis conducted to gain insights into the problem.

Analysis and discussion

Encourage participants to analyse the problem from different angles and identify its root causes.

Facilitate a discussion to explore potential contributing factors and underlying issues.

Idea generation

Engage in a brainstorming session to generate potential solutions or approaches to address the problem.

Encourage participants to think creatively and suggest diverse ideas without judgment.

Solution evaluation

Evaluate the proposed solutions based on predefined criteria such as feasibility, effectiveness, and impact.

Discuss the pros and cons of each solution and identify potential risks or challenges.

Decision making

Facilitate a decision-making process to select the most appropriate solution(s) from the evaluated options.

Consider reaching a consensus or use a defined decision-making method (e.g., voting) if necessary.

Action planning

Develop an action plan to implement the chosen solution(s).

Define specific tasks, assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and allocate necessary resources.

Follow-up and review

Discuss how progress will be monitored and how the effectiveness of the implemented solution(s) will be evaluated.

Set a date for a follow-up meeting or communication to review the outcomes and make any necessary adjustments.

Closing statement

Summarise the key points discussed and decisions made during the meeting. Thank attendees for their contributions and commitment to problem solving.

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what is problem solving meetings

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Problem Solving Meeting Agenda: 4 Effective Steps to Conduct a Problem Solving Session

By Ted Skinner

4 Steps to Solve Problems at Your Weekly Meetings

Strategy Execution

Effective Meetings

4 Steps for a Problem Solving Meeting Agenda

One of the easiest changes to your meeting is to attempt to solve at least one problem per week. Not just any problem, you should pick the most important problem facing your team each and every week. Think of all of the additional productivity you, your team, and your company could gain if you were able to put the team together and solve at least one problem per week. That’s an additional 52 problems you could solve each and every year, clearly putting you on the path to out-execute your competition and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

At Rhythm Systems, our business KPI and OKR dashboards allow you to quickly and easily find the most important problems each week to solve. Since all of our key performance indicators (KPIs) and projects (Quarterly Priorities) have clear Red, Yellow, Green success criteria and are updated weekly by the owner, the team has a clear visual indicator of the business problems they are facing. Our clients can easily determine where there are problems, find the most important ones (as all KPIs and priorities/OKRs are ranked in order of importance), and brainstorm together on how to get back on track during their weekly adjustment meetings. 

As you can see in our KPI dashboard below, we have a clear issue with our sales pipeline - a leading indicator for revenue. As this is a leading indicator, it helps the team predict revenue in the future; it gives us the added bonus of fixing the revenue problem BEFORE it shows up in the bottom line. To take your KPIs to the next level, follow these  five tips to make sure your team is tracking the right KPIs - both leading and results indicators - successfully.  It is extremely important to define the problem properly, so that you can get to the root cause of the issue.

problem solving meeting

Now that you have identified the problem to focus on, you can work deeply on the problem until you are able to devise and execute a complete game plan to solve it. If you follow our problem-solving meeting template below, you'll have the proper meeting agenda to help you break through any challenges you face. Use this as a primary agenda, but remember to allow team members to add an agenda item.

4-Step Process for a Problem Solving Meeting Agenda with This Problem-Solving Session Template (or Agenda).

Step One: List and brainstorm every potential cause for the problem or challenge.

  • We want to make sure that we solve any structural issues first. These might be open sales positions, known bugs in the software, issues with a supplier - internal or external, known production issues, and those types of challenges. Do we have a standard and complete understanding of the problem? Is the meeting goal clear to everyone? This root cause analysis is an essential part of the process. If you don't find the root of the problem, it will feel like groundhog day as you'll solve the symptoms repeatedly.

Step Two: Brainstorm possible resources to help.

  • During this step, think of the people and resources that might help you solve the problem. Are the resources in the room? Are they in the company? What are the budget constraints for a solution? In the sales pipeline example, the sales and marketing leader would likely need to be involved in solving the issue. This is critical to group problem solving: knowing where to get the necessary resources. You'll need to think of resources that might be outside the room. There needs to be a shared understanding of the root cause of the issue and all possible solutions to solve the problem.

Step Three: List and brainstorm every potential solution or approach.

  • Think of as many ideas as you can. You might list an email blast to all of your prospects, a sales promotion to help with a sales pipeline issue, contracting an outside expert for search engine optimization, investing in more outbound sales representatives to schedule more meetings, and any other potential approach that is likely to solve the problem. This is where the team comes to a final decision on the recommended course of action or potentially two teams trying two different approaches.

Step Four: Recommendation for action.

  • Discuss, Debate, and Agree on the course of action and execute against that plan. Discuss the plans entirely with the person who suggested them, taking the lead to explain their approach to the solution. Allow the team to debate the positive and negative merits of the proposal and repeat the process until all ideas have been presented. The team should be able to reach a consensus on the best course of action. Now the team can agree on the most likely solution (or two - if they are different resources) and create a game plan to execute against. Make sure that everybody on the team can answer the question "what is my role in the solution?"  This action planning process ensures that you have an execution plan to solve the problem.

Move forward with your action plan and keep a constant and deliberate eye on your metrics and KPIs. If that isn't doing enough to move the needle to correct the problem, run through the process again, and determine additional steps to take to alleviate the issue. Keep working until you solve the problem. You can read more about different applications for the process  here  and download our free and handy Breakthrough to Green tool  here .   

However, many of you reading this post don't have a business dashboard solution already, so what can you do?  

  • Ask for any issues from the team when setting the agenda for your weekly meeting.
  • If you are a manager, bring one of your problems to your team to have them help solve it with you. Making yourself human and vulnerable will encourage them to do the same with any issues they face.
  • Work on solving problems, rather than placing blame, when discussing issues. Creating a safe environment for healthy discussions about things that are off track is crucial in solving problems in your business.
  • Monitor your KPIs weekly and make sure significant projects get frequent (and honest) updates. If you wait too long between updates, you lose the ability to make the necessary adjustments if issues arise.
  • Create a shared spreadsheet to start tracking your most important metrics and projects as a place to start. However, you might find that you'll  outgrow your spreadsheet  quickly; it is a place to get started and organize your thoughts.  
  • You're likely to have conflicting opinions, so ensure you set the proper ground rules for conduct and respect.
  • Creative problem-solving isn't an event; it is a state of mind. You might not get it 100% right the first time, but with this problem-solving framework, you'll have the correct process to get to the desired solution.

Good luck taking your weekly staff meetings back and making them more productive! Download the free Breakthrough to Green tool to help you properly frame your problem and create an action plan to solve it. Thousands of teams have used this problem-solving process and can help yours too!

Breakthrough to Green Tool - get your Yellow and Red Success Criteria back to Green

Additional Rhythm Systems Weekly Staff Meeting Resources:

How To Have Effective Weekly Staff Meetings (With Sample Agenda Template)

4 Easy Steps to Fix Your Weekly Staff Meetings [Video]

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Supercharge Your Meetings with This Effective Weekly Meeting Agenda

8 Ways to Make Weekly Meetings Strategic vs. Tactical (Video)

Weekly Adjustment Meetings vs. Weekly Status Meetings (Infographic)

Consider using   Rhythm Software to run your weekly meeting , where the status and agenda are automatically created weekly to keep you on track!

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A Complete Guide: Planning a Problem Solving Meeting

January 6, 2022

By MeetingFull Team

what is problem solving meetings

What’s the best way to prepare for a meeting where the goal of that meeting is to solve a problem? What’s the key difference between a problem solving meeting and a decision making meeting?

Let’s first identify the challenges in a problem solving meeting and make sure our plan addresses each of those points.

Meeting challenges:

  • Different perceptions of the definition of the problem.
  • Unclear understanding of the magnitude and future consequences of the problem.
  • Disorganized brainstorming process for a solution.
  • Misalignment on the cost/benefit of different solutions.
  • No clear ownership of the solution.

The goal of a problem solving meeting is to discuss solutions to a problem only after all participants fully agree on the definition of that problem . Everyone attending the meeting should be a part of a group responsible for identifying and correcting the problem.

In a decision making meeting, the group is already presented with a solution(s) and is coming to a consensus on how to proceed. The method for how to come to a decision is predefined as either a vote , group consensus or a leader made decision.

Also Read: A Complete Guide: Planning a Decision Making Meeting

Now that we understand what we’re aiming to accomplish in our two meeting types, let’s address solutions for each of our problem solving meeting challenges.

Listen to the participant’s definition of the problem. Ideally, a meeting organizer can try soliciting input prior to the meeting and share a summary of it at the start of the meeting. It’s key that everyone agrees that their perspective is being repeated accurately.  If that’s not possible, participants should share their definition of the problem at the start of the meeting. Before moving forward, get agreement from everyone on the definition of the problem.

Discuss how long the problem has been going on and what will happen if the problem isn’t resolved. The solutions people present in a problem solving meeting are highly dependent on understanding the real impact (or cost) of the problem. Share with the team how long ago the problem started and what the future will look like depending on when the problem is solved.

Weigh the pros and cons of a solution in real time. A core practice to keeping a brainstorming process organized is to write things down as you go and document the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal. You can do this on a shared document or up on the whiteboard. All participants should be viewing the growing list.

Create criteria for key factors that should be considered. Common factors are financials , resources, time, values and accessibility . Discuss these areas in the meeting. Consider each factor while brainstorming on a solution.

Gain consensus before ending the meeting. There should be one option that the list of advantages and disadvantages shows as a winner. The participants included in this meeting should be the people who can execute on a solution. Clearly defined next steps that are reviewed and distributed are the last steps for this problem solving meeting.

Also Read: A Complete Guide: Creating the Perfect Meeting Agenda

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7 types of meetings (and how to get them right)

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7 different types of meetings

How to plan effective meetings that add value to your team 

If you think you’re attending more meetings than before, that’s because you are. 

In a mid-Covid workplace, the number of meetings we attend has increased . Whether we’re working from home or in the office, it’s important to understand the different types of meetings we take part in. 

Meetings are a way to collaborate , share information, and find solutions as a team , no matter where we work from. They are an opportunity to use brainstorming techniques to generate new and creative ideas. 

The problem is that many meetings that take place today are inefficient. According to Doodle’s State of Meetings report, professionals spend 2 hours each week in pointless meetings . 

How can we make meetings feel less like a waste of time and more productive ? 

Let’s begin by learning about the different types of meetings and how to make sure they add value to you and your team. 

7 different types of meetings 

When done right, each meeting we attend serves an important purpose. Let’s familiarize ourselves with some important types, so we can better understand how to conduct them the right way. 

Here are the 7 most common business meetings types:

  • Decision-making meetings. These are called when an action needs to be taken by a group.
  • Problem-solving meetings. These are used when a group needs to come together to solve a specific problem.
  • Team-building meetings. These meetings are used to build cohesion within a group and improve the way team members work together.
  • Brainstorming meetings. These are used to generate new ideas or make links between novel or innovative concepts.
  • One-on-one meetings. This is a meeting scheduled between two people to discuss something specific.
  • Quarterly planning meetings. Held every three months, these are used to plan how a team will execute the company’s goals.
  • Check-in meetings. These meetings are used to monitor task progress against an expected outcome.

Let’s look at each in a bit more detail:

1. Decision-making meetings 

A decision-making meeting is a collaborative effort led by a team leader . 

According to McKinsey, it’s typically made up of 6 to 8 attendees and contains a structured agenda that identifies the decision that needs to be made . 

The participants involved are key decision-makers or subject matter experts. For example, deciding on a new hire will only include certain employees like hiring managers. 

To run an effective decision-making meeting, participants must know in advance how the decision will be made , explains a Harvard Business Review article. 

For instance, if the team can’t come to a consensus within 60 minutes, they’ll put it to a vote or the key decision-maker will make the final call. Knowing in advance how the decision will be reached avoids wasting time. 

Another important aspect of decision-making meetings is information gathering. You’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary information you need to make the best decision. 

  • Deciding on a new hire  
  • Making a employer branding change 
  • Operational changes like downsizing or cutting costs
  • Final approval of a design 

2. Problem-solving meetings 

The main goal of a problem-solving meeting is to find the optimal solution to an issue facing the organization. 

And when it comes to finding the best course of action, two heads (or a few in this case) are better than one. A Harvard Business Review article explains that effective problem-solving meetings require participants to come together and generate as many potential solutions as possible. 

Once that objective is achieved, participants have to decide who will implement the best solution. This responsibility can be assigned to one person or shared among a few team members. 

Finally, a successful problem-solving meeting isn’t complete without identifying the root cause of the issue. Understanding what led to the problem in the first place will prevent it from happening again. 

Examples: 

  • Operational problems 
  • Productivity issues
  • High employee turnover  

3. Team-building meetings 

Team building meetings are designed to strengthen teamwork, trust, and cohesion. Improving the way employees work together leads to an increase in productivity as well as employee happiness . 

A team-building meeting aims to create a fun and interactive atmosphere through the use of games or team challenges. This is a great opportunity for organizers or leaders to get involved and form stronger connections with their teams. 

As more employees are working remotely , virtual team-building meetings are becoming increasingly important. They’re a way to engage and connect with employees who work from home and may feel isolated from their team members and organization . Engaging with remote employees helps prevent company culture and employee morale from deteriorating.

  • Virtual board games 
  • Virtual team challenges 
  • Lunch and learns 
  • Internal TED Talks
  • Team outings 

4. Brainstorming meetings 

Brainstorming sessions are innovation meetings. Participants collaborate to generate new and creative ideas. 

During these sessions, team members work as equal co-contributors or under the guidance of a facilitator. These idea-generating meetings are loosely structured, allowing teams to “think big” and tap into their creative potential . Using a variety of brainstorming techniques like mind mapping , employees use their creative thinking skills to come up with fresh ideas or new products.

business-meeting-planning-types-of-meetings

Idea-generating meetings are most successful when teams are diverse . Diverse perspectives generate better ideas, identify potential blind spots, and create more innovative solutions. 

  • Product development 
  • Ad campaign creation 

5. One-on-one meetings 

A one-on-one meeting is a meeting between two people. It is scheduled for a specific purpose. 

For example, it can be a performance review between a manager and their employee, or a meeting between a sales rep and their client . 

While you don’t need to follow an agenda during a one-on-one, a running document on what each person needs to touch on is common. Otherwise, the meeting is loosely formatted and unfolds like a normal conversation . 

According to Microsoft Workplace Insights, one-on-one check-ins have increased by 18% since the pandemic . Their research found that regular touchpoints foster a sense of connection and fun for remote employees. 

  • Weekly one-on-one 
  • New employee introduction  
  • Quarterly performance review 
  • Coaching or mentoring session 
  • Client sales meeting 

6. Quarterly planning meetings 

Every three months, teams come together to strategically implement a company’s short-term and long-term goals . 

Like problem-solving and decision-making meetings, attendance is limited to participants that will execute the plan. Each participant is expected to contribute and commit to implementing the plan. 

While the structure of the meeting can vary, it’s usually led by the team leader who assigns tasks to each attendee . 

Quarterly planning meetings are a great way to track a team’s progress and keep team members motivated . They’re also a good opportunity to reflect on the previous quarter and review what needs to be executed in the following one. 

  • Strategic planning 
  • Project planning
  • Event or campaign planning 

7. Check-in meetings 

Check-in meetings are one of the most common types of meetings. Organizations regularly hold these progress-check meetings for several reasons: 

  • Share project updates and progress 
  • Ensure everyone is carrying out their roles and responsibilities  
  • Get employee feedback  
  • Discuss any challenges, successes, or ideas 
  • Figure out the next steps 

woman-on-virtual-work-meeting-types-of-meetings

During a weekly team cadence meeting, for example, employees update their managers and team on their weekly progress. 

Check-in meetings are becoming increasingly important as more people are working from home , and not directly under the supervision of managers. Regular check-ins help ensure remote employees stay informed and their goals align with the rest of the team. 

  • Project status update meetings 
  • Client check-in meetings 
  • New employee onboarding check-in 
  • Weekly one-on-one check-in meetings 
  • Weekly team meetings 
  • Project debriefs

There’s no denying the frequency of meetings has increased since the pandemic began. Another Microsoft report shares that weekly meeting time has more than doubled with the rise of the hybrid work environment. 

With fewer opportunities to connect in the office, online meetings are a way to stay updated, socialize, and share information. 

As your employees attend more types of meetings, It’s important to make each one as productive and efficient as possible. Otherwise, they can negatively affect your team’s morale and productivity. 

But before you begin to plan your next meeting, ask yourself this question –– Is a meeting really necessary, or could it be an email? For example, if the meeting doesn’t need a discussion or decision making, relaying certain information is best done via email. 

According to a recent SurveyMonkey poll, 32% of employees think, “this meeting could have been an email” all or most of the time . This is usually the sentiment when meetings are pointless and far too frequent. 

employees-teleconference-call-types-of-meetings

However, when you do need to plan a meeting, each one must be worth every minute of your time and your employees’ time. 

Here are a few tips to help you organize more efficient meetings: 

Set clear a clear objective and agenda

Before sending a meeting invite, make sure you know the exact purpose of the meeting. What is your end goal? This will help you figure out what kind of meeting you should be having and who needs to attend. 

Once your objective is set, your meeting needs to follow a clear agenda to ensure every minute of it is used efficiently. 

A survey by the tech company Barco found that 13% of meeting time is wasted because people discuss topics outside of the meeting’s objectives. Following a meeting agenda will cut back the time spent discussing topics that aren’t relevant to the meeting. 

Without a clear structure, meetings can quickly become unproductive. 

Avoid inviting too many attendees

Determine which team members need to be there and don’t overcrowd the meeting. For example, a decision-making meeting should only involve key stakeholders. 

This ensures those who need to be in attendance have an opportunity to contribute and make their voices heard. 

Ensure everyone arrives on time 

Barco’s survey also found that 11% of meetings are spent waiting for someone to arrive. And according to Doodle’s State of Meetings report, people arriving late is one of the main factors that turns a good meeting sour.

Start your meeting promptly and emphasize the importance of being on time with your employees. 

Keep it short 

Ensure the meeting is no longer than it needs to be. As Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple , is famously quoted as saying, “The longer the meeting, the less is accomplished.” 

Microsoft found that the optimal meeting time for their employees is no longer than thirty minutes. Employees organically transitioned to shorter meetings to optimize their productivity and move away from time-consuming meetings that affect employee happiness . 

Keep the team focused

The meeting leader or facilitator should ensure participants come prepared and focused. For instance, if someone in the group is constantly checking their phone during the meeting, the team leader should intervene. 

Keeping participants accountable ensures no time is wasted and everyone gets the most out of the meeting. 

Which types of meetings can you improve within your organization? 

There are many types of meetings leaders are responsible for planning. 

From weekly team huddles to more formal meetings, each one is uniquely valuable to the organization and team’s success. Understanding the importance of each one and how to run it efficiently is the key to reducing time-wasting, pointless meetings. 

Start working with a BetterUp coach to increase the effectiveness of your meetings and build lasting organizational transformation.

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Maggie Wooll, MBA

Maggie Wooll is a researcher, author, and speaker focused on the evolving future of work. Formerly the lead researcher at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Maggie is passionate about creating better work and greater opportunities for all.

Anxious about meetings? Learn how to run a meeting with these 10 tips

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what is problem solving meetings

Seven Best Practices for Problem-Solving Meetings

Oh Ye Gods and Monsters, not another <groan> meeting .

Admit it. You’ve said that. Or some version of it, only NSFW.

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In Leader Effectiveness Training , Dr. Thomas Gordon dedicates 28 jam-packed pages to “How to Make Your Management Team Meetings More Effective.” Unsurprisingly, in an environment already using the No-Lose Method of conflict resolution, this approach will build trust and consensus. It’s a surefire basis to make meetings more productive .

Leaders can help ensure the teams they assemble to solve tricky workplace problems function optimally (and maybe even have fun while they’re at it—it’s science! ) by following these guidelines, amalgamated and abstracted from Dr. Gordon’s original 17 guidelines for problem-solving management teams.

  • Frequency and Duration: While new groups will have to meet more often, and frequency will be dictated by the number and complexity of the problems the group is working on, consistency is key. Meet at the same time on the same day , even if the group leader can’t be there. And never, ever meet for more than two hours at a time. Enforce that limit, because brains fry.
  • Get the Right People in the Room: The problems a group will be working on should dictate group membership (never more than 15 people; more voices than that become unworkable). Does each member have access to critical data that will be important to solving the problem or represent an organizational group that will be directly affected by the group’s decision? Then they’re in. Also, each member will need to a delegate an alternate with full participatory and decision-making authority should he or she not be able to make it to a meeting.
  • Agendas and Priorities: The group, not the leader, develops the agenda, either ahead of time or at the beginning of the meeting, with a means for adding items at the last minute if needed. The group prioritizes items at meeting kickoff.
  • Discussion Ground Rules: Surprise! In a functional autonomous group of adults entrusted with solving important workplace problems, they should also be trusted to come up with their own ground rules. The group leader’s main role is to stay out of the way of productive discussion.
  • Right Problem/Wrong Problem : The Polish proverb “ Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys ” is as good a guideline as any to help a problem-solving group decide what is an appropriate problem to tackle and what is not. If group members agree a problem affects them and is within their span of authority and scope of responsibility, it’s the right problem. If not, they can and should delegate up, down, or out.
  • Reaching Consensus : Like a jury, a problem-solving group must strive for unanimous consensus. This means a member with a very strong opinion needs to be willing to let it go when she’s greatly outnumbered; conversely, members without strong feelings should always be willing to go with the majority. And in some cases (highly technical software purchasing decisions, for example), the group should be willing to defer to members with the greatest responsibility for implementation or expertise in the area under consideration.
  • Follow-up: Agenda items should be marked resolved in one of several ways: Resolved; Delegated (inside or outside the group); Deferred to a future agenda; Removed by the submitter; or Redefined in other terms. Meeting notes should be sent to members as soon as possible after the meeting (record only decisions, task assignments, future agenda items, and follow-up items—not discussion details). Finally, the group itself should set up a mechanism to periodically evaluate its own effectiveness.

And there you have it. A seven-point prescription for more productivity and less pain in meetings. A kind of analgesic, or acupuncture (depending on your painkiller preference) for getting people together and focused on getting stuff done— which, after all, is the purpose for work team meetings in the first place: to collaborate on problems that can’t be solved alone .

Try it. (If you want to read the full 28 pages—well worth your time—get a copy of Leader Effectiveness Training .)

More From Forbes

The secret sauce in the best problem-solving meetings.

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Problem-solving meeting

A few basic procedures can make the difference between bad and good meetings. Then, for the most valuable problem-solving or joint sense-making meetings, do these three things:

  • Keep focus on helping someone or something outside the meeting.
  • Ensure task clarity, concreteness and appropriateness.
  • Help all understand the meeting design, flow and their own roles.

Basic Meeting Procedures

Follow the basics for good meetings:

  • Set a single overall objective.
  • Agree expectations for learning, contribution and decisions by agenda item and attendee in line with that single objective – and include only those people necessary and sufficient.
  • Send appropriate pre-work and pre-reading to attendees far enough in advance for all to learn and contribute to their full potential.
  • Actively manage meeting participation and timing to optimize learning, contribution, and action-oriented decisions.
  • Circulate meeting notes promptly to memorialize decisions and actions, kicking off the preparation for the next meeting and delivery of commitments.

Different Types of Meetings

You’ll need different types of meetings to deliver different objectives . These include:

  • One-way presentations to convey information.
  • Two-way conversations to get input and make decisions – a better approach to most meetings.
  • Problem-solving, joint sense-making, or curated co-creation .

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The Secret Sauce

1.    Keep focus on helping someone outside the meeting.

Pick your cliché, analogy or song. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” “We’re all in the same lifeboat.” “You and me against the world.” Whichever you choose, groups united in helping or defeating someone outside the group spend more of their time focused on that, and less of their time trying to score points against each other.

These groups take a best current thinking approach to the ideas in the room. They view others’ ideas as contributions to the common good, not as personal challenges. They ratchet up each other’s thinking, not critique it down. With these groups, in these meetings, expect a minimum of blaming and defensiveness as all try to move forward together.

As the leader in a meeting like this, your main job is to set and reinforce that outward focus.

2.    Ensure task clarity, concreteness and appropriateness.

Having focused everyone on the outward why, turn your attention to the what. Most people come to a meeting wanting to help. Make it as easy as possible for them to do that by being clear on the specifics of the task they need to accomplish. The more concrete, actionable and appropriate that task, the better.

Tell them what to get done; and make sure you give them enough time to complete the important work – but not too much time.

3.    Help all understand the meeting design and flow and their own roles.

The outward focus is about why. The task is the what. Now we turn to how.

If all you do is deploy the basic meeting procedures from above, you’ll get most of the way there. In larger, more complex meetings, it’s helpful for participants to have a feel for the meeting design and flow so they know what to expect. Finally, the better people understand their own role the easier it is for them to contribute in that role.

For example, at one recent meeting with people working a handful of projects concurrently:

  • Senior executives served as project sponsors , linking project teams with the executive team. At this particular meeting, their role was to support the project teams. They put aside their “executive” approver hats and focused on helping and advising.
  • Each project had an accountable leader who led the project team in general and at this meeting, setting direction and linking with the project sponsor.
  • Each project also had a project manager , responsible for running the project, its meetings – including this one - and follow-ups.
  • Each project had team members who helped do the work.
  • The rest of the attendees helped the project teams improve their thinking.

Click here  for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #728) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding:  The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan .

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How to have a more productive team meeting (that staff and managers will love)

what is problem solving meetings

The team meeting. A necessary evil, an exercise in wasting time, or your organization’s secret weapon? At it’s best, a team meeting is a way to ensure your staff and management teams are aligned , that no obstacles stand in the way of company progress, and to create an open forum for dialogue and discussion . At their worst, team meetings can frustrate and cause more problems than they solve with many employees facing meeting overload . Can you afford to have bad meetings that could lose clients or cause friction with internal stakeholders when there is a solution?

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As organizations develop more dynamic ways to communicate, the tried and tested team meeting needs an upgrade. You can have more efficient, fun, and engaging meetings with your team. In this article, we’ll show you how!

First, we’ll explore how to organize and plan more purposeful meetings. Next, we’ll show you what to put in your meeting agenda and then we’ll show you how to lead them in a way that generates results and connection.

What is the purpose of a team meeting?

What are the six types of team meeting, what is the importance of a team meeting, how to plan an engaging team meeting, what to put in a team meeting agenda, how to lead more productive meetings, team meeting faq.

At its core, the purpose of a team meeting is to share information efficiently and to provide scope for discussion around what is being shared . A good team meeting helps teams align on the topics of discussion, air any concerns or obstacles, and have clarity on future actions. 

The exact purpose of a team meeting is decided by the topics in the agenda and the business needs of the meeting and your organization. 

Your team meeting might be business-critical – a place where company developments or valuable information or training are shared. Team meetings can also be where your staff are able to spend time together informally and share what’s on their mind. Conducting team meetings to improve wellness, for open discussion, or simply to try something new are all viable reasons to bring your team together.

Key to a successful team meeting is to always have a clear purpose. Define what it is that you are gathering people for – their time is as precious as anyone’s and if they think it’s time wasted, it will work against you and certainly won’t energise the team! Jane Mitchell , Founder JL&M, Director at Karian and Box

The most productive and effective team meetings have a clear purpose in mind. As a manager be sure to identify the purpose of your meeting, whether it is to align your team, to have fun and get to know new members of staff, or to deliver business-critical information. Going into a team meeting with a clear purpose helps ensure you can stay on track and be more successful as a result. 

Not all team meetings are made for the same purpose. When you’re looking for team meeting ideas and what kind of meeting you should run, it’s helpful to consider your purpose and what you want to achieve.

Here are some of the most common types of team meetings, with a rundown of what they might involve and how you might run them.

what is problem solving meetings

Status update meetings

A status update meeting is one of the most common meetings you will lead, and one you will likely perform on a regular schedule. This often involves giving status updates on current projects and ensuring alignment on next steps for the week. The status update meeting might be a general catch-up, where staff and stakeholders can brief the team on their progress and give a general overview of their status. This helps teams stay aligned and discuss any challenges or barriers .  Regular meetings to discuss the status of a project are hugely helpful in ensuring everyone is moving forward in the right direction. They can help remove blockers and support further work while giving the project manager everything they need to manage effectively.

Information sharing meetings

All organizations will have information they need to share with their teams at some stage. An information sharing meeting might include presentations from stakeholders or sub-teams, keynote speeches, company updates or briefings for new staff. Subtypes of this meeting might include the company all-hands, training sessions, external parties delivering presentations, product demonstrations, and more. While some items can be distributed via email, there is power and value in sharing information in a live, public setting where you can clarify any points of confusion and highlight your key points. Remember that information-sharing meetings do not need to be wholly passive. As a team leader, you should consider where you can use activities and games to ensure engagement.

Decision making meetings

Team meetings that bring people together to focus on a common goal are great places to make decisions and solve problems. A decision making meeting can vary from information gathering and sharing, coming together to evaluate solutions, voting on a course of action, or aligning around the implementation of a chosen decision. In this kind of meeting, clearly setting the purpose and desired outcome is integral to its success. If you want to come out of the meeting with a decision made, set this expectation prior to the meeting taking place. It’s also important to ensure that everyone involved in the decision is considered and that their views are heard. Group decision-making meetings with a clear leader are an effective way to pool resources but also ensure action is taken.

Problem solving meetings

All teams face problems both big and small. These might relate to business challenges, internal politics, external pressures or particular projects or team goals.

A problem solving meeting can be a great place to employ out-of-the-box techniques and exercises , consider problems from new angles, and create change in an organization. Your problem solving meeting might even be focused on first clearly identifying and defining a problem with data, or creating a strategy to deal with problems that you expect may arise. Proactive problem solving is a great way to engage your team and delight your customers .

what is problem solving meetings

Innovation meetings

The design and innovation meeting is where your team can be creative, bringing new ideas to the table that can help drive innovation in your organization . Here, your team might conduct workshops, design sprints, and ideation games to generate innovation before moving on to finessing and honing those ideas into something more concrete. Though they might be looser in nature, innovation and ideation meetings should always have goals and outcomes in mind and be focused on creating actionable items you might iterate on in the future.

Check out the ideation workshop template to see how you might schedule and run this kind of meeting effectively.

Team building meetings

Every meeting you run with your team should be an opportunity for collaboration, discussion, and conversation : all items that contribute to building a strong and effective team. That being said, dedicated team building meetings are vital to building a vibrant company culture, bringing a team together, and to help keep everyone happy and productive. You might go on a company away day, facilitate conversation between previously siloed teams, celebrate your team’s successes, engage in activities and exercises, and unify your staff.

Check out the team canvas template agenda for a great example of how you might spend time on creating better team cohesion in an upcoming meeting!

It’s really important that meeting participants have clarity on the ’type’ of meeting they are attending. Too often people think they are there to make decisions when it’s not even a decision making meeting! Be explicit before and during, especially at the start to the meeting, whether it’s an info share, problem solving or decision making meeting and if it IS a decision making meeting what decision making strategy and tool/method will be used to decide!” Gary Austin , Co-Founder & Director, circleindigo IAF Global Director of Communications

Team meetings are incredibly important to a productive team and organisation. Ensuring that all the members of a team are given what they need to perform well, remain aligned and be happy and effective in their work is vital, and meetings remain one of the most efficient ways to facilitate teaching, conversation and change . 

In large organizations with many teams, there comes the danger of siloing teams or individuals away from the rest of the company. Communication between teams is integral to helping everyone understand business goals and company direction, all with the goal of promoting better collaboration and to prevent friction or frustration.

In a Fierce, Inc survey on team collaboration , they found that “ 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures .” Well-constructed team meetings promote collaboration and communication and can ensure that any difficulties that might lead to the above failure can be addressed before it occurs.

Consider whether members of your product team have regular contact with your support or success teams. Meetings that reach across teams and pull people who might not work closely together is a great way of sharing ideas and knowledge and ensuring that work done will be valuable and not repeated . Product teams can develop better features with the input of customer-facing teams; executive teams can only address staff concerns if they are productively raised and discussed. Team meetings allow this exchange of knowledge and expertise to occur. 

Asynchronous tools to help improve communication, log tasks and collect feedback are great and should be used, though there’s always value in discussing business-critical decisions in person or in remote team meetings. When a group of people get together in a room on virtually, you are able to iterate quickly, develop ideas and be agile. There is always value in putting your team in a safe, non-hierarchical space to discuss ideas .

The best teams communicate often and reappraise their goals, methods, and outcomes regularly. A good team meeting can be the most effective way to accomplish this, though a bad team can set your team back and even ruin morale. So how can you improve your team meeting and avoid time-wasting? Read on to see how planning, agendas, and good practice can make your team meeting more effective. 

Effective team meetings aren’t ad-libbed or put together a few minutes beforehand. Planning the structure, purpose, and scope of your meeting not only helps you understand the value it can provide but also helps you keep everything on track. Here are some tips on how to plan an effective team meeting.

Ask whether this needs to be a meeting

Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself whether what you aim to achieve or discuss needs to be done in a meeting. Can the aims of the meeting be better accomplished with collaborative online tools or via other methods? Meetings without value or purpose can frustrate your staff or divert attention from business-critical items.

Every meeting should have a clear purpose and outcome in mind , whether that’s to generate ideas, teach the use of a new tool, or to eat birthday cake. If you do not have a purpose or outcome for your meeting, reassess whether it is a good use of your team’s time.

Remember that giving your staff an open forum to air concerns or to take some downtime and get to know one another does have value. So long as the meeting is the most efficient way of reaching a particular outcome, even if that outcome is an open conversation or simply having fun, it deserves to be run.

Clarify the purpose and expected outcomes of the meeting

Team meetings can be fluid in nature: certain topics may generate large amounts of discussion while others may be straightforward. The key to a successful meeting is to be clear on the purpose of the meeting and what outcomes you and the team should expect as a result. Clarify this early on in the planning process so that you can ensure your meeting is on point and so that everything you design for the meeting is relevant.

Create a team meeting agenda and prioritize your topics

Start by creating an agenda for your meeting, including all the topics you want to cover. Have a clear idea of what items in your agenda are most important so you can adjust accordingly, keep things on track, and allow for further discussion if necessary. Prioritize your topics so you can ensure that what needs to be covered is done so without issue, and so that any time in the meeting is well spent.

Being in control does not mean being inflexible : as a team leader, you should have a feel for what is most valuable to your team and this means ensuring that happens, but that you are able to adapt to what comes up in the meeting.

Collaborate with other stakeholders

90% of employees in the Fierce Inc survey believed decision-makers should seek other opinions before making a final decision . 97% of people also believed that a lack of alignment within a team directly impacted the outcome of a project . This is true for meetings as much as any other organizational process. Seeking the opinions and input of others and aligning ahead of meetings through collaboration is vital to making your meetings more effective. Ensure stakeholders from other departments have a channel to raise items for discussion. Use the expertise and insight of your team to deliver better meetings. If you’re briefing your executive team on product developments, get input from your product team and, if possible, get them in the room to lead the relevant sections. Team meetings are places to build bridges, whether that be between gaps in knowledge or between team members – help build those bridges by putting the right people in the room together. Be certain to judge how much collaboration is necessary for your meeting. A large-scale meeting about the direction of a company should have feedback and input from many divisions; a small group meeting about how to use a specialized piece of equipment, possibly not. It’s worth noting that facilitating collaboration with the right tools and processes is vital to make this work. Using emails to collect meeting ideas, collaborate on sessions and develop plans is likely to be inefficient and lead to things being lost in the cracks.

Tailor the agenda and format to suit the purpose of the meeting

A team meeting intended to finalize a decision-making process will need a mix of methods and techniques very different to a daily stand-up meeting. One size does not fit all and your meeting should be explicitly constructed with the purpose in mind . This might mean including icebreaker games if the purpose of the meeting is team building, or including design and innovation techniques for an ideation workshop . Your agenda may need amending if the meeting is for senior stakeholders versus the whole team. An open forum might benefit an informal discussion but you may need to employ a different model when leading a business-critical meeting that needs to be delivered quickly. Design your meeting to suit its purpose, the allocated time, and participants, and it will be much more productive as a result.

Be wary of fatigue

Some meetings are longer than others by necessity, though you should always consider the effect this will have on your participants. Allocate breaks preferably at least every 90 minutes, if not sooner. 

If you have particularly dense items to go through, consider how you might make them more engaging or easy to understand. Multiple formats for presenting information can help – mixing collaborative exercises and more discursive teaching can be a good way of keeping people engaged and avoiding fatigue.

Design your meeting with the attendees in mind

A small team meeting with your HR department will require a different approach to a company all-hands with dozens of attendees. You may need to adjust timings, put in additional items or construct your meeting differently. If you’re discussing development roadmaps with a team with varying levels of technical knowledge, consider the language used and whether you might want to circulate FAQs or explainers ahead of the meeting. When including facilitation methods, exercises or games, bear in mind the number of attendees and whether you might need breakout groups. A team-building exercise with dozens of attendees could take the entire meeting if not handled correctly. Remember: this will likely not be the first or last meeting people will have attended. If you are leading a meeting for design professionals, many techniques or methods will already be known to them and you should plan accordingly. Different skill and experience levels require different approaches and as such, you should know who will be attending ahead of the meeting. Design your sessions so that they are engaging and useful for everyone.

Know your audience and be humble in recognising that a burning subject for you may not be uppermost in the minds of the team! Once you balance that in your preparation – approach the meeting accordingly to get the best out of everyone and to meet your own needs. Jane Mitchell , Founder JL&M, Director at Karian and Box

Carefully select who needs to attend

If your meeting is for stakeholders in a particular topic or is focusing on a particular product area, it may not be pertinent for everyone in your company to attend. Think about who will find it valuable, who it affects and who has something to contribute. Always go back to your purpose and outcomes and if some people aren’t going to find value in attending, rethink whether they should attend. Frustration can arise if people are in meetings they have no reason to be in or where they have nothing to learn or add.

Consider the location and plan ahead

Are you using powerpoint or conducting a software demo? Do you want people to be able to break out into smaller teams? Ensuring you have the right location, room setup and resources for your meeting will keep your meeting on time and effective. Think about accessibility and the needs of all the members of your team when choosing a location and design your meeting accordingly.

Circulate your agenda ahead of the meeting

Giving your team time to prepare and arrive at the meeting with an idea of what they’d like to bring is imperative in ensuring a productive meeting. Some topics are complex and benefit from forethought – by circulating the team meeting agenda in advance, participants can get a headstart and feel prepared.

Give your participants clear expectations of the meeting

When circulating your agenda, ensure you give your staff an outline of what is expected of them . If they need to prepare material, be clear about what they need to prepare and exactly what you want from them. Are they bringing an idea they can present in thirty seconds or something more robust? Do they need to bring any equipment or materials? Do you need them to review a document or product prior to attending? At the planning stage, itemize everything your participants will need to bring to the meeting or tasks they will need to do before. With this clarity, both you and your participants can thoroughly prepare and the meeting can run more efficiently. At this stage, it can also be useful to set the ground rules for the team meeting. This might include delineating leaders, expected etiquette, attendance and more. This is likely to be reiterated in the meeting, but giving your participants an expectation of behavior and how the meeting will be conducted at this stage can help prevent future issues from arising.

Create room in your meeting for discussion

Realistically allot time to tasks and, depending on the meeting format, allow time for questions and feedback. It’s sometimes tempting to cram topics and exercises into a meeting and try and rush through everything. Ensure your workload and agenda is sensibly timed , and that you have some wiggle room if a task generates additional discussion or needs further explanation. If the subject of the meeting is likely to create a discussion among your team, it can be incredibly frustrating to cut that short.

Set a schedule and stick to it where possible

Having a consistent time and schedule for your team meetings is tremendously useful. Setting a routine is great at ensuring your staff will remember to attend and get into a habit of checking the agenda and doing preparatory work. 

People like to know what’s coming and scheduling your meetings on the hoof can lead to frustration. Set a schedule so your staff can plan around their work around the meeting and be at their most productive.

Expect equipment to fail and plan ahead

Technical solutions and audio-visual equipment can enrich any meeting, though what happens if something goes wrong? Can you afford to cancel a meeting because the sound refuses to come out of the speakers or your magic pointer is out of battery? Plan for the event of a tech failure so you can deliver a productive, effective meeting whatever the circumstances. This might mean bringing printouts, having back-up materials, or alternative ideation exercises. 

what is problem solving meetings

Extra considerations for virtual team meetings

Before you jump into a video call, there are a few more things you’ll want to think about in order to make the session a success.

Does everyone have access to the video app or the meeting link? Use google calendar or similar to ensure everyone can see the meeting and attend. Reminders in Slack or calendar software are also useful to ensure everyone gets into the meeting on time. 

Remember to consider timezones when selecting a time for a remote meeting . Your US team might not appreciate a team meeting at midnight in their timezone!

Should the meeting be recorded for other members of staff who may not be online can gain benefits? If so, how will that be done? Doing things last minute or finding out how to record during the meeting isn’t the best use of time – plan ahead so that your meeting runs smoothly.

Be sure to make it clear at the outset whether you want people to respond in chat, or by speaking up. This can ensure everyone feels able to contribute while also keeping your video call on time!

Lastly, you might want to consider the tools you’re using for your virtual team meeting. Combining the best collaboration tool with your video software of choice can massively impact the success of your session. Take a peek at our collection of free online tools to get started!

Setting a clear agenda can be one of the most effective ways of ensuring your meeting is a success. Creating a team meeting agenda that covers expectations, how everyone should prepare, and including the complete rundown of the meeting should be your first port of call when putting your meeting together. 

In short, your team meeting agenda is a tool to outline what will be included in your team meeting, including topics, times, and additional material. It is an overview that you and your staff can refer to ahead of and during the meeting. 

Want to get started with a complete example agenda? Check out our collection of meeting and workshop templates to get inspired and see a schedule in action.

An example team meeting agenda might include:

Meeting details: time, location, and host

News and announcements, progress report or follow-up on a previous meeting, future actions.

Make sure your team knows when and where the meeting is, and who will be leading it. Add contact details if necessary so participants can forward questions ahead of the meeting. The details or introduction of your agenda should also include goals and expected outcomes, what the purpose of the meeting it, and what do you want your team to get out of it. Having a clear goal and letting your team know what you hope to achieve can really help make a meeting more productive.

Don’t assume that everyone on your team reads every email announcement. Here, you can highlight key bits of news, share announcements, and give kudos to team members who deserve extra recognition. Beginning a meeting in this manner helps staff settle in and warm up before the real work of the meeting kicks off.

Was an item raised in the previous meeting that needs to be checked in on? Was a business-critical action agreed on that requires a debrief or status update?  If the subject of a series of team meetings is a particular project or initiative, you might discuss what progress has been made, what the next steps are and what obstacles exist. This portion of a meeting is intended to align and resolve any issues swiftly so that everyone can be productive once the meeting is over.

This is often where the bulk of meeting time is spent. The team leader or other stakeholders will explore the topics of the meeting with the group and lead them towards the desired outcome. This might include the teaching of a new product feature by a lead developer, a discussion of employee benefits, or workshops or exercises designed with a specific goal in mind. 

The format of this section will be tailored to the needs of the meeting and should be focused on fulfilling the purpose and goals of the meeting. If your meeting is designed to generate new ideas, this will be where you create space for exercises and group work. If there is business-critical information your team needs to receive, the approach you take might be more discursive. The important thing is that you go through the key items of your agenda in an efficient, productive manner. Outlining the key topics that will be covered in your agenda helps you do this in a cinch.

Opening the floor to your team and allowing room for them to feedback on the contents of the meeting or to raise other concerns is an important element of most team meetings. As a manager, creating space to listen to your team and encourage open, honest discussion is one of the most empowering things you can do for your staff.  It’s worth noting that there are many ways to facilitate discussion in a team meeting: you may have a plenary discussion, roundtables, town hall-style, note-and-vote, small group breakouts or an open forum. Tailor the form of discussion to your group size and the purpose of the meeting. Many meetings will allow time and space for discussion throughout, but having dedicated time towards the end of a meeting can allow your staff the opportunity to plan ahead and bring concerns that will benefit from group discussion to the table. 

Here is where you will wrap up the outcomes of the meeting and agree on actions to be taken as a result of what has been discussed. These might include follow-ups with particular staff members, new tasks, or items to be actioned ahead of the next meeting. Just as you set clear expectations of what you wanted from your team prior to the meeting, this is a place to set the expectations you have of staff following the meeting.

This list is by no means exhaustive and will be tailored to your meeting. If the focus of your team meeting is to discuss a business-critical issue, you may not have need for other news and announcements. If you having a team-building meeting, you may want to avoid more formal topics in your agenda. Remember: your agenda sets the stage for your meeting and affects what expectations people will have as a result. Your agenda will let your staff whether they are going into a meeting where they will be primarily taught, whether they need to prepare for group discussions, or if its a looser team development meeting.

So you’ve created an awesome team meeting agenda, planned everything down to the finest detail, and gotten everyone into the right place. How do you lead a meeting and ensure it is productive for everyone involved?

Conducting a team meeting effectively is an important skillset and is an often neglected area of managerial duty . The best meeting agenda can fall apart if a meeting is allowed to go off the rails. Here are some tips on what to do before the meeting, during the meeting, and afterward.

  • Before the meeting
  • During the meeting
  • After the meeting

What to do before your team meeting

Preparation and planning is key to a successful team meeting. Here are some tips on what you can do before your meeting that will help it be more productive.

Be familiar with the equipment and meeting location

Are you using a projector to display materials or running a product demo? Check your equipment and set-up beforehand so that the meeting can run smoothly. Acts of gods can happen, but prepare for eventualities where equipment may fail. If you’re booking an unfamiliar meeting room, arrive early or scope it out beforehand. Are there enough chairs? Allow yourself time to set-up the room before it begins. Time spent arranging a room during a meeting will cut into your agenda time.

Allow sufficient time for prep

Giving your team the time to properly prepare for the meeting is integral to ensuring it is a success. If they have materials to prepare or read through, ensure that everyone has time to go through them. Sending a document last minute and expecting everyone to receive and digest it is likely to cause issues. On the flip side, ensure you have time to prep yourself. Getting to a staff meeting late and having to set-up in a hurry can mean your meeting sets off on the wrong foot. Giving yourself time to mentally prepare, particularly if the subject of a meeting is business critical or emotive is also important. Have time to take a breath, set-up the room and go over your agenda before you start.

Keep it lean

A team meeting is just one small part of the working day and productive teams will have other tasks they need to attend to. Keep your meetings lean and cut out extraneous items so they can be all killer, no filler. Tight, well-designed meetings are more engaging and will save time too!

Remember that time for questions and discussion is vital and should not be the first thing on the chopping block. You are the expert in what your team needs and what is of greatest value to them. Design with that in mind and your meetings will be more effective as a result. 

Be clear about the purpose and scope of the meeting

Not being clear can allow a meeting to be derailed or to focus on non-vital areas for too long. Always bear in mind the purpose of the meeting and adjust when something goes off track if it is not of value.

There is a fine line to tread between being rigid and flexible but any tension can be mitigated by being clear both before and during a meeting. Being clear about the scope of the meeting is also important: no single meeting can cover everything happening in a company and it’s important to know what can be accomplished in the time you have allocated. 

what is problem solving meetings

What to do during your team meeting

Once the meeting has begun, there are a number of things you will want to keep an eye on so that it is valuable and engaging for all involved. Here are a few things you can do to make your staff meeting a success.

Set the ground rules

This can make the difference between a productive meeting where everyone feels heard, and a meeting where people become angry and lose interest. The ground rules for a meeting might take the form of a quick word on how people can raise items, how they should interact with other members and what is expected of them or can become as exhaustive as a contract that attendees agree to. You should be clear about what is expected of your participants and also, what is unacceptable behavior. Becoming aggressive, shouting over other attendees or not engaging with the group are all things you might want to guard against by setting out the rules before you begin. 

Effective team meetings are based on respect, trust, and communication: your ground rules should lay down the importance of these items so your attendees can operate in the knowledge they will be heard and respected in the meeting.

Watch the clock

Keep your eye on the clock and ensure your meeting runs on time. This might mean wrapping up certain discussions early or allowing others to continue. You need to judge the value of what’s being discussed but broadly speaking, stick to your agenda and keep to your timings so that everything is covered. 

Ensure that there is a clear meeting leader

Even when bringing in other parties, there should be a person in the room responsible for timekeeping, leading and curating the meeting. This will ensure that if things get out of hand there is one person to defer to and make judgment calls for when to move on. This does not mean that meetings should be run dictatorially – it is simply important to have someone in control of the flow of the meeting and to redirect energies where necessary.

Model the behavior you want to see

Remember that as a leader you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your staff. If you do not appear that you want to be in the meeting, your team will pick up on that. Be positive and engaged, listen to your team and collaborate where possible and set the example for meeting behavior your team can follow.

Share responsibilities 

Trying to do everything as the leader of a team meeting is valiant but may not result in the most effective or enjoyable meeting. Collaborate before the meeting by getting input from stakeholders and domain experts. Share tasks if applicable and leverage the expertise of your team. This might mean having chosen attendees leading particular sections of the meeting, having a designated note-taker or person responsible for tech. If your focus is on facilitating the meeting most effectively, be empowered by sharing other tasks with members of your team.

Be flexible to business conditions

Try starting every meeting with a quick review of the agenda and of the parameters of the meeting. Is something business-critical occurring, or have some of the items to be covered drastically changed since the agenda was circulated? Business is fluid and as the leader of a team meeting, you should be flexible when judging if the meeting needs to change or be abandoned.

Be engaging

If you are delivering training, there are many ways you can transmit information more effectively and by engaging your team in fresh ways. A meeting should not be a one-way conversation and by trying proven techniques of increasing engagement, you can have more productive meetings.  You might include some exercises or activities to get your team to energized or think of problems in new ways. Remember that changing things for the sake of changing them can also lead to frustration. Not every kind of meeting needs an energizer or ice breaker. You are the expert on your team, and you should judge the tenor and make-up of the meeting accordingly. 

Consider inclusion and engagement and help everyone feel of equal value in the room – that they are valued for who they are. This means making the meeting accessible physically, but also socially/psychologically – e.g. the language used, waiting at least 7 seconds for people to respond to a question, using people’s names to invite them into a discussion. Remember that people “engage” in different ways – some speak up, others process thoughts quietly. Just “showing up” can be a form of engagement.  Laura Sly , Trainer, Facilitator, Coach, Consultant; YLS Ltd

Encourage participation by creating the right environment

When facilitating a team meeting, participation is one of your key measures of success. Creating space in your agenda for people to participate and contribute is important. Create a safe space where people feel they can participate without judgment. Set your expectations when it comes to participation and outline the ground rules so that everyone gets a chance to speak. Some team members are likely to be chattier than others: stay alert and encourage your less forthcoming team members to speak up. Ensuring that everyone feels heard and empowered to contribute leads to a greater range of input and helps build a safe environment for sharing. 

Encourage honesty and openness

All teams may disagree on certain points, whether it comes to direction, focus or strategy. Build an environment where your staff can be honest, candid and direct in team meetings. Encouraging your staff that honesty and candidness is not only encouraged but celebrated can help accelerate any process and ensure that every staff member can speak their mind. While there will always be a meeting leader, make it clear that everyone’s opinion is valuable, whether they are part of the executive team or a junior member who just joined the organization.

Take notes, minutes or record the meeting

Have you ever lead a great team meeting only to forget what the takeaways were as soon as you’ve left the room? Genius can strike in the moment and be lost just as quickly. Have a method in place for recording the meeting or taking notes. If you are leading a meeting, this might be conducted by another team member. For remote teams, this might be recording the video of the meeting or can be just as simple as having a notepad at the ready. Recording the meeting also means you have resources to learn from in the future and improve your meetings if something didn’t go well.

Make reviewing meetings part of the routine, something you do at the end of every meeting, so that everyone is learning how to do it better all the time. Three simple questions: to what extent did we meet our aims in this meeting? What helped? What got in the way? Give everyone a chance to say something and put the responses in the note of the meeting so you remember to make improvements next time. Penny Walker , Facilitator, Trainer, Coach, Consultant for sustainable development

What to do after your team meeting

Most team meetings will result in actions being agreed upon and further steps your staff will need to take. Be sure to continue the work done during the meeting with the following tips on what to do once the meeting is over.

Be sure to allow time for feedback both inside and outside of the meeting. This might be in a slack room, a google poll or an email after the meeting, but hearing from the attendees on what worked and what didn’t can be instrumental in ensuring the value of future meetings. 

Some questions you might ask can include:

  • Were you given enough time/resources to prepare for the meeting?
  • How did the meeting deliver value and meet your expectations?
  • What would you have added to the agenda? 

Listen to your team

What do they need from your meetings and how can you deliver better value to them? This might come up during open discussions in your meeting, though its key to allow other forums for your team to raise these items without the scrutiny of speaking in front of everyone. You may even consider allowing anonymous feedback with a form or survey if the topics of discussion would benefit from anonymity. What’s important is that every member of staff can give feedback and have their voice heard in the way that is best for them.

Demonstrate value

Demonstrate the value of your meetings to your teams and stakeholders throughout the organization. Did your team meeting expose a customer pain point or result in a great new product idea? Were you able to solve a problem as a team that can benefit the whole organization? If your team is one part of a greater whole, share best practices and your findings. If you can prove your team meetings generate results, staff will likely be more engaged in future meetings.

Running better team meetings that engage your staff and increase productivity is not an exact science. Use the tips above but be sure to trust your instincts and tailor your approach to your team. 

Running a successful team meeting is an alchemy of planning, facilitation, great exercises, and engaging content. Is there something we didn’t cover above but is on your mind? We highlighted some of the most commonly asked questions about team meetings below for you!

What are the benefits of team meetings?

Is there such thing as too many team meetings, is the traditional team meeting dead, how do i make team meetings more fun, how should i start a team meeting, what should i do in my first team meeting, what are team meetings best used for.

When you bring your team together effectively, something magic happens. You can create a sense of energy and shared purpose, clean up misconceptions and remove blockers too. The best team meetings enable great work to happen without taking up too much time or frustrating participants.

It takes effort, planning, and good facilitation skills , but the benefits of a team meeting include:

  • improved team cohesion and alignment
  • clear designation of tasks and next steps
  • removal of blockers and challenges
  • celebration of wins and accomplishments
  • space to brainstorm and ideate together
  • keep the team informed of developments and upcoming items
  • team bonding and connection
  • opportunity to practice presentation skills
  • time to give feedback and improve team processes

Yes and no. It’s true that many organizations have too many unproductive or dull meetings, but it’s also true that we still need good meetings in order to create high-functioning and connected teams.

Any manager running meetings should have a clear idea of the purpose and benefits of the meeting. If the meeting has no value or purpose, you should really question whether the meeting needs to go ahead at all. If you are running multiple team meetings, consider whether they can be condensed, made leaner or whether some of them can be replaced with collaborative online tools. Meeting fatigue is very real and burning your team out on an excessive number of meetings can only reduce productivity. 

No. Teams will always need to meet and discuss business items and, where possible, meeting in person is still hugely valuable. Creating engaging meetings with purpose and fresh approaches to engaging staff will help your team meetings be something your staff look forward to, rather than dread.

Slack channels and collaboration tools are great but do not discount the value of a well-planned and properly run team meeting where people can collaborate face-to-face.

Fun is a tricky concept when it comes to team meetings. Does every meeting need to be fun, and should a meeting’s value be judged on whether it is fun or not? Perhaps a better question would be: How do I make a team meeting more engaging? In a business-critical meeting where high-level items are being discussed, you do not necessarily need people to have fun, but to be engaged with the subject of the meeting and have clear takeaways and actions. In a team development meeting designed to get teams talking, fun should absolutely be a consideration. Use energizers, exercises and proven methods of engagement from our library to help people connect, build bridges and have fun. Every meeting should be the best version of itself it can be: if it’s a meeting where people are getting to know each other, make it more fun and include some energizers . If it’s a meeting where you are trying to improve collaboration between staff, make it more collaborative.

By focusing on making your meeting more engaging, your meeting will be more successful: successful teams inevitably have more fun. Create a positive feedback loop!

Warming up your staff ahead of complicated or emotive discussion is a great idea. This might include an icebreaker activity , the sharing of good news or announcements, or a quick debate on a small issue. Encouraging the activity you’d like to see in the meeting in a fun, brief form is a good way to ensure staff are warmed up and ready to engage with the rest of the meeting. Engage people with open questions to invite them into the meeting, set the tone, be positive, and make lots of eye contact. Remember you are modeling the behavior you want to see from your participants, and by making a great example, people can follow suit.

When you are leading your first team meeting, whether with an entirely new team or in a new role, you are setting the tone for future meetings and interactions with your team. Lead a poorly planned and executed meeting and you are teaching your team to dread your future meetings. Make a big impact by finessing your first meeting and creating a template for future success.

In your first team meeting, ensure you have ample time to get to know everyone, break the ice and have open, frank discussions. After your first team meeting, give your team the chance to offer feedback and help you improve – creating an environment of honest, unilateral feedback will pay dividends in future meetings.

Team meetings are great places to resolve issues and confusion with honest, open discussion. Items that might take dozens of back and forth emails to clarify can be talked through in a safe public forum and you can save time as a result. In many organizations, team meetings might be the only time you can get the right minds all together in a room for a single purpose. The collaborative atmosphere is great for developing ideas, problem-solving and fast iteration. Bouncing thoughts off one another in a meeting environment can be extremely effective and lead to unexpected outcomes. Team meetings are also best used for transmitting critical information in a way you know your staff will receive. Emails can be missed or items in a bulletin can be skipped. In a team meeting you can ensure everyone is on the same page and that any concerns and raised.

In conclusion

We hope we’ve given you some insight into how to lead a better team meeting and get the most out of the time you spend in meetings. Whether you run a team meeting once a week or every three months, taking the time to plan, collaborate and consider how to make your meeting more engaging is an integral part of managing and leading a team.

If we’ve left anything out or if you have questions about any part of the post, write to us in the comments below. We’d love to hear how you connect with staff in team meetings and your tips to lead the best team meeting possible!

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what is problem solving meetings

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Meetings running overtime or never landing on a solution? Here are meeting challenges and the solution that can help your team.

Meetings are meant to be a time for productivity. They’re useful for brainstorming, organizing projects, deciding goals, and presenting new ideas. 

If your meetings aren’t productive, you’re likely facing meeting challenges.

But don’t worry! Meeting challenges are common and easily identifiable, and there are many available solutions.

What are meeting challenges?

13 types of meeting challenges and how to overcome them .

Meeting challenges are the misaligned, unprepared, or ineffective actions that make meetings, well, challenging .

Many factors contribute to ineffective meetings , like the level of preparedness, how time is spent during the meeting, and the technical aspects of the meeting. However, at the root of all meetings are people. Understanding how people plan, execute, communicate, and function around other aspects of their work environment will help you understand why common meeting challenges occur. 

We’re here to share 13 of the top meeting challenges that people most often face in meetings, and some quick solutions to help bring the next meeting into alignment.

what is problem solving meetings

Delightful meetings

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what is problem solving meetings

  • Meeting length
  • Lack of preparation
  • Technical difficulties
  • Lack of clarity or purpose
  • Too many talking points
  • Too many meetings
  • Various time zones 
  • Lack of employee participation 
  • Off-topic discussions
  • Late start and end times
  • Poor communication between meeting attendees
  • Lack of accountability 
  • Ignored meeting agenda

1 Meeting length

Challenge: Whether it’s a collaborative meeting or a presentation, long meetings mean participants will eventually lose focus, energy, or ideas. Especially in our virtual working world, it can be easy for participants to get distracted by other tasks when they lose interest, and eventually they may tune out of the meeting entirely. On top of that, long meetings take away from valuable deep work time.

Solution: Shorten meetings to under an hour (in most cases, preferably less). Some strategies to reduce meeting length include setting a clear agenda, identifying roles ahead of time, and allotting time slots for each topic. Giving the meeting 45 minutes instead of the typical 60 goes a long way to making time feel shorter without actually cutting much out.

2 Lack of preparation

Challenge: We’ve all heard (and probably said) it: “Which meeting is this for again?” It’s the undeniable way to know that your meeting is going to be filled with people who either don’t know what’s going on or don’t care, and this indifference makes it quite difficult to land on new ideas and solutions.

Solution : Preparing meeting materials ahead of time spreads participant awareness for the topic, generates interest, and builds confidence at decision-making time. A quick way to get employees engaged is by building a meeting agenda and sharing it with the team for feedback ahead of the call.

3 Technical difficulties

Challenge: Cameras, keyboards, mice, monitors, Wi-Fi, laptop, VPN … there are a lot of places where difficulties could happen when it comes to your hardware or software. From your monitor not being plugged in right to your laptop needing an hour-long update, these technical difficulties all take precious time away from your productive meetings.

Solution: While there’s not much you can do about the power going out or the Wi-Fi needing a quick restart, you can do a few things to stay prepared. Get into the habit of checking your audio and video before the meeting starts (and adding that screen background if you’d like one). Also, regularly update your computer as soon as it’s required, not just before your important call. 

4 Lack of clarity or purpose

Challenge: Not knowing how to clearly define your meeting’s goals ; this lack of clarity will take away from your team’s productivity. Teams need a meeting plan with a specific goal or purpose that answers why the meeting is happening and what needs to be determined by the end of the call. This purpose provides direction and helps keep meeting conversations on track.

Solution: Remember, no agenda, no attenda . In other words, cancel any meetings with no agenda! It’s not worth your team’s time to join a meeting that doesn’t have a goal or structure. With no way to make meaningful progress through the call, you’re better off using your time on another measurable, productive task.

5 Too many talking points

Challenge: We only have 24 hours in a day, and the time for so many talking points in a meeting. A common challenge in meetings is that leaders underestimate the time it takes to thoroughly cover a topic point. Beyond the initial topics, leaders also forget to consider leaving time for subtopics, for clarification questions, and for planning next steps.

Solution: Keep the focus of each meeting simple. Break bigger topics into multiple meetings or narrow in on the important talking points. Ensure that you leave enough time to fully present, discuss, and close out each topic. Group size matters, too. Smaller meetings may be able to progress through points quicker, while larger groups may need more time to pass ideas around for each topic point.

6 Too many meetings

Challenge: Contrary to popular belief, meetings aren’t always needed. Too many meetings can actually decrease productivity by taking up excessive space in employees’ calendars and failing to allow opportunities for deep work. 

Solution : Meetings are best used for complex topics that otherwise couldn’t be discussed over the phone or by email. Project feedback meetings, new topic presentations, and employee reviews are great examples. But updates for minimal progress on existing projects could be better covered in an email or chat message.

With too many meetings, making room for deep work and execution can be hard. Fellow helps ensure that meeting attendees with 20+ hours worth of meetings per week can still find time to get work done with the Meeting Guidelines feature set. With this feature, when a meeting is being created with an attendee who has 20+ hours of meeting that week, the meeting organizer is automatically reminded that the attendee is already highly booked.

what is problem solving meetings

7 Various time zones 

Challenge: Remote working trends now have employees from the same team stationed across countries, if not across continents. As a manager, it can be difficult to manage employees across multiple time zones . There is an added challenge when employees working in different cultures have differing working days, lunch breaks, or dinner times. 

Solution: Try an asynchronous approach to meetings! While working remotely, team members can benefit from asynchronous meetings, which allow them to attend at their own pace, at a time that is convenient for them. This approach is also great for busy teams that struggle to find open meeting time slots that work for everyone. 

8 Lack of employee participation 

Challenge: Lack of participation from attendees makes meetings boring. In presentation sessions, it can be difficult to generate feedback or questions about new topics. In brainstorming sessions, unengaged employees won’t contribute and ultimately will drain the creative energy in the session. 

Solution: Send an agenda in advance so participants can better prepare for the meeting. Engage a more senior employee by allowing them to take ownership over preparing the agenda and collecting this feedback, and engage a more junior employee by asking them for their feedback.

9 Off-topic discussions

Challenge: Mentioned previously, bigger topics need time to be broken down and discussed as each relevant sub-topic. When discussing these sub-topics, participants may unintentionally go off on tangents or redirect the conversation away from the meeting’s primary goal. This ultimately leads to a less effective use of time for all involved.

Solution: Following your agenda will help remind you what your priorities are for the meeting. Assign one participant as a time-keeper to manage the schedule you set out in your agenda. If important side topics arise, table them for another time using a parking lot .

10 Late start and end times

Challenge: This one seems like a no-brainer, but happens way too often . Technical issues, poor planning, and schedule overload can all contribute to a late start. Often, these disruptions can cause late endings, too!

Solution: Respect that everyone has a busy day ahead, and do your best to follow the schedule set out in your meeting agenda. Update and test your technical equipment ahead of time to limit likelihood of failures, and try to book 5-10 free minutes before your meeting time to get a glass of water and prepare for the call. 

11 Poor communication between meeting attendees

Challenge : It’s fair to say that not everyone will have the same approach to brainstorming, solving issues, or communicating. However, not aligning on the meeting purpose and schedule is an issue that’s harder to get around, and this can completely slow productivity.

Solution : Create a safe environment and foster healthy work relationships. If you have a new team or you’re having trouble deciding how to approach a meeting, try testing different methods each meeting until you learn what works best for your team.

12 Lack of accountability 

Challenge: It’s easy to stand back and point fingers when something falls through the cracks. Unfortunately, doing so leads to missed deadlines, unmeasured Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and miscommunication across teams. A lack of accountability comes from meetings that don’t have established action items or assigned ownership over each task.

Solution: Assign clear action items to project participants and establish clear guidelines for reporting KPIs (ensure they are doable, measurable, and relevant!) Beyond keeping projects on track, making participants accountable also keeps them engaged, which is another solution to #8 on this list.

13 Ignored meeting agenda

Challenge: While making the agenda gives your meeting purpose and structure, actually following the agenda is what keeps you on track and keeps employees aligned. Not following the meeting agenda can create confusion on meeting purpose, presents opportunity for distractions, and ultimately means that any pre-meeting planning (like agenda planning) was mostly done for nothing.

Solution: Understanding how to use a meeting agenda template can help guide your team in the right direction, especially if you’re new to building meeting agendas. Try out several templates with your team (in different meetings) to see which one works best.

Parting advice 

If you’re new to managing meetings or you’re trying to change bad meeting habits, we’re here to help! The golden rule here is to plan, plan, plan . 

And when you get these basics down pat, try looking at meeting contingency planning for when things don’t seem to go your way ( despite all the planning). 

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The Lucid Meetings Blog

The 16 Types of Business Meetings (and Why They Matter)

It’s not that the advice is wrong, per se. It’s just not specific enough.

  • Introduction
  • Background: The thinking behind the taxonomy
  • Cadence Meetings
  • Catalyst Meetings
  • Meetings to Evaluate and Influence
  • Table: Summary of Types
  • Example: How Different Types of Meetings Work Together

For example, it’s not wrong to tell people they need an agenda with clear outcomes listed for every topic. It just doesn’t apply to a lot of situations. An exquisitely detailed agenda for the one-on-one with my boss? For the sales demo? For our morning huddle? Yeah, I don’t think so. For the board meeting or the requirements analysis meeting? Absolutely.

Sometimes an organization has a pervasive problem with meetings. People complain that there are too many meetings, nothing gets done, it’s wasted time, it’s all power and politics instead of productivity—and they start to look for solutions. They find lots of generic advice, and they find lots of this kind of drivel:

Crushing morale, killing productivity – why do offices put up with meetings? There’s no proof that organisations benefit from the endless cycle of these charades, but they can’t stop it. We’re addicted. by Simon Jenkins for the Guardian September 2017

This article is wildly popular. Over 1000 people who hate having their time wasted in meetings paradoxically had extra time they could spend commenting here to express their agreement and outrage.

Mr. Jenkins has clearly struck a nerve. It’s the kind of pandering that drives clicks and sells ads, which makes that a job well done for the Guardian. But it’s also nonsense.

There’s no proof that organizations benefit from meetings? You can only say something like that when you’re speaking too generally for anyone to know what you’re talking about. Because otherwise – did you hear that, sales teams? There’s no proof those client meetings help your company. Go ahead and cancel them! Hospital workers, stop wasting your time in those shift-change meetings! You should know what to do without talking to each other so much – go heal people already! Boards? Board meetings are for losers. Just use chat and email to manage all your governance duties.

When you get specific about the kind of meeting you’re talking about, the generic “meetings waste time” or “you must have 5 people or less” statements become ridiculous, and people who complain about meetings in general sound like childish whingers.

A meeting is not a meeting.

Want to skip the background information? Jump ahead to the taxonomy.

This doesn’t mean that meetings in general work great and that there’s no problem to solve here. It just means that there isn’t a singular meeting problem that has a simple meeting solution .

This is a challenge for us!

At Lucid, we work to help our clients get meaningful business results from their meetings, and to do this, we have to get specific. The coaching we provide for our committee clients is not the same advice we give to leadership teams .

Mr. Jenkins correctly points out that when you invite 20 people to a meeting designed for 5, it doesn’t work anymore. Well, duh. His conclusion is that meetings don’t work. A more useful conclusion is that if you’re going to invite 20 people, you should run a meeting designed to work for 20 people. That’s entirely doable, but it’s also a very different meeting.

In brief: the solution to a meeting problem depends on the kind of meeting.

Which raises the question: what are the different kinds of meetings? If it isn’t useful to provide guidelines for all meetings, is it at least possible to establish useful guidelines for a certain type of meeting? Or do we really need to look at each and every single meeting as if it was totally unique and special?

This question has driven much of our work over the past 10 years.

We found that there is a core structure underlying all successful meetings , acting as a kind of skeleton. Every meeting needs bones, but after that, the kind of animal you get on top of those bones can vary wildly. A fish is not a bird is not a kangaroo, despite the fact that they all have a head and a tail.

We found that meetings work together , and that looking at individual meetings in isolation leads to misunderstandings. It’s like studying a single bee; the drone’s dance doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you know that there are other bees watching. Meetings are designed to beget action that is evaluated and built upon in subsequent meetings, and the sequence and cadence at which these meetings occur drives the momentum of that action. Looking only at a single meeting means you miss the clues that lead to the honey.

We work with facilitators and experts to design agendas and guidebooks for running specific meetings . We’ve seen where the structures look the same, and where they differ. There are lots of specific ways to run a status meeting, but even though there’s a lot of variety between them, every status meeting still looks way more like every other status meeting than it does like any strategic planning session. Mammals are more like other mammals than any of them are like an insect.

And of course we work with clients and hear concerns about all those things that the experts don’t talk about, like how to lead a decent meeting when the group thinks meetings aren’t cool, or how to prepare in advance when your goal is to “wow” everyone during the meeting. We know people worry about how to walk those fine lines between inclusiveness and efficiency, and between appropriate framing and facilitation on the one hand, and manipulation on the other. We hear how they experience specific meetings in the context of getting real work done and can see how priorities shift between getting the content right and getting people connected.

A Taxonomy for Meetings

From all of this, we’ve developed a taxonomy for meetings that we use to help answer these questions:

  • Assessing Meeting Performance Maturity : Which kind of meetings does an organization run, and which ones does it need to know how to run well? How well does it run those meetings?
  • Meeting Design : If I need to design a new meeting, is there a core pattern I can build on? What factors of the design have the greatest impact on the success of this kind of meeting?
  • Meeting Problem Diagnoses: If there is a problem with a meeting, are there common requirements for that kind of meeting that I can check first? Are there things going on in that meeting that might work in other meetings, but are incompatible with success in this one?
  • B.S. Filter: Is the advice I’m hearing or reading relevant to the success of this meeting, or is it meant for another sort? Or worse, is it generic B.S.?

Background Work: Forming the Hypothesis

We’re not the first to propose a meeting taxonomy. If you search for “types of meetings” and if you read any books on meetings, you’ll find many ways to break down meetings by type. Most lists include between 4 and 6 different types; things like Issue Resolution meetings and Decision Making meetings.

To build our taxonomy, we started with a set of 6 types and a list of all the different kinds of meetings we could think of, then tried to match them up.

This was frustrating. No matter which list we started with, within a few minutes we always found an example that didn’t fit.

For example, Google used this list of the 6 Types of Meetings from MeetingSift as the definitive list for years. It’s very similar to many other lists out there.

  • Status Update Meetings
  • Information Sharing Meetings
  • Decision Making Meetings
  • Problem Solving Meetings
  • Innovation Meetings
  • Team Building Meetings

So – you tell me. Which one of those does the board meeting fit into? How about the project retrospective? The answer is that meetings like the ones that you might actually find on your calendar can fit into several of these types.

Whenever we found a meeting that didn’t fit, we set it aside and asked “Why?” What is it about that meeting which meant it should be treated differently than these others?

Because we are focused on driving tangible business results, we found we needed to get more specific. In the end, we found that there were three major factors that impact how to approach a meeting.

  • The Meeting Intention
  • The Meeting Format

The Expected Participation Profile

Our current taxonomy uses these factors to describe 16 distinct meeting types and gives a nod to a significant 17th that falls outside of our scope.

The Differentiators: Intention, Format and Participation Profile

Before we dive into the specific types, let’s take a look at the factors that make them distinct in more detail.

Meeting Intention

The intention behind a meeting is most often expressed as the meeting’s purpose and desired outcomes. In other words, why do people run this kind of meeting? What is it meant to create?

There are two major outcomes for any meeting: a human connection and a work product. We found that many attempts to categorize meetings dealt only with the work product, which often led to bad advice.

For example, the intention of a decision-making meeting is:

  • A decision (the work product) and
  • Commitment to that decision from the people in the room (a human connection outcome)

It is very easy to run a decision-making meeting that achieves 1 (a decision) but fails to achieve 2 (commitment), and therefore will fail to deliver the expected business result. If you have ever been in a meeting where you’re discussing a decision you thought had already been made, you know this to be true.

Our taxonomy attempts to look at both kinds of outcomes when describing the meeting intention.

When we first started looking at meeting format, we used a standard breakdown of “formal” and “informal” to help distinguish between the board meetings and the team meetings, but we abandoned that pretty quickly because it didn’t hold up in practice.

In practice, we found that while boards have rules that they must follow by law, and they do, this didn’t necessarily mean that the majority of the meeting followed any very strict structure. Many board meetings actually include lots of free-form conversation, which is then briefly formalized to address the legal requirements.

By contrast, we would have considered an Agile team’s daily stand-up meeting to be an informal meeting. Heck, we run those and I don’t always wear shoes. But despite this casual, social informality, the daily stand-up runs according to a very clear set of rules. Every update includes just three things, each one is no longer than 2 minutes, and we never ever ever problem solve during the meeting.

It turns out that formal and informal told us more about a participant’s perception of social anxiety in a meeting than it did about the type or format of a meeting. I experience stand-ups and interviews as informal, largely because I’m in charge and am confident of my role in these meetings. I doubt everyone I interview considers it an informal chat, though, and I imagine our stand-up may feel pretty uptight to someone who wasn’t used to it.

Instead of formal and informal, we found that the strength of the governing rituals and rules had a clearer impact on the meeting’s success. By this measure, the daily stand-up is highly ritualistic, board meetings and brainstorming sessions abide by governing rules but not rigidly so, and initial sales calls and team meetings have very few prescribed boundaries.

This still didn’t quite explain all the variation we saw in meeting formats, however. When we looked at the project status update meeting, we realized it shared some characteristics with the board meeting, but these project meetings aren’t governed by rules and laws in the same way. And while the intention for project updates is always the same—to share information about project work status and manage emerging change—there’s a ton of variation in how people run project status updates. Some teams are very formal and rigid, while others are nearly structure-free. This means our “governing rituals” criteria didn’t work here.

The format characteristic all project status update meetings do share, and that you’ll also see with board meetings, is a dislike of surprises. No project manager wants to show up to the weekly update and get surprised by how far off track the team is, or how they’ve decided to take the project in some new direction. Board members hate this too. For these meetings, surprises are bad bad bad!

Surprises are bad for project updates, but other meetings are held expressly for the purpose of finding something new. The innovation meeting, the get-to-know-you meeting, the problem-solving meeting all hope for serendipity. Going into those meetings, people don’t know what they’ll get, but they try to run the meeting to maximize their chances of something great showing up by the time they’re done.

So, when categorizing meetings based on the meeting format, we looked at both:

  • The strength of governing rules or rituals
  • The role of serendipity and tolerance for surprise

Last but not least, we felt that who was expected to be at a meeting and how they were meant to interact had a major impact on what needed to happen for the meeting to succeed.

The question behind these criteria is: what kind of reasonable assumptions can we make about how well these people will work together to achieve the desired goal?

Remember: every meeting has both a human connection outcome and a work outcome.

This has many significant design impacts. For example, in meetings with group members that know each other already, you can spend less meeting time on building connections. We don’t do introductions in the daily huddle; we assume the team handled that outside the meeting.

In meetings where the work product is arguably far more important than the human connection, it’s not always necessary for people to like one another or even remember each others’ names as long as the meeting gets them all to the desired goal efficiently. A formal incident investigation meeting does not need the person under investigation to know and like the people on the review board to achieve its goal.

By contrast, some meetings only go well after the team establishes mutual respect and healthy working relationships. The design of these meetings must nurture and enhance those relationships if they are to achieve the desired outcomes. Weekly team meetings often fail because people run them like project status updates instead of team meetings, focusing too heavily on content at the expense of connection, and their teams are weaker for it.

After much slotting and wrangling, we found there were three ways our assumptions about the people in the room influenced the meeting type.

  • A known set of people all familiar with one another. Team meetings fit here.
  • A group of people brought together to fit a need. Kickoffs, ideation sessions, and workshops all fit here.
  • Two distinct groups, with a clear us-them or me-them dynamic, who meet in response to an event. Interviews fit here, as do broadcast meetings and negotiations.
  • The expected leadership and participation styles. Every type of meeting has a “default” leader responsible for the meeting design; usually the boss or manager, a facilitator, or the person who requested the meeting. Most also have an expected interaction style for participants that, when encouraged, gets the best results. Some meetings are collaborative, some very conversational, like one-on-ones, and some are very formal – almost hostile. Still others, like the All-Hands broadcast meeting , don’t require any active participation at all.
  • The centrality of relationships. Finally, we looked at whether the meeting’s success depended on the group working well together. Nearly every meeting that teams repeat as part of their day-to-day operations works best when team members get along, and becomes torturous when they don’t. Outside of regular team meetings, there are also meetings designed explicitly to establish positive relationships, such as the first introduction, interviews, and team chartering workshops. In all these cases, a successful meeting design must take relationships into account.

Criteria We Considered and Rejected

There are lots of other factors that influence how you plan and run any given meeting, but we felt that they didn’t warrant creating a whole new type. Here are some of the criteria that impact meeting design, but that we didn’t use when defining types.

Location and Resources

Face-to-face or remote, walking or sitting, sticky notes or electronic documents; there’s no question that the meeting logistics have an impact. They don’t, however, change the underlying goals or core structure for a meeting. They simply modify how you execute it.

A design workshop for creating a new logo will deal with different content than one for developing a new country-sponsored health plan or one for creating a nuclear submarine. At the human level, however, each of these design workshops needs to accomplish the same thing by engaging the creative and collaborative genius of the participants in generating innovative solutions. Similarly, project meetings in every field look at time, progress, and budget. The content changes, but the core goals and format do not.

This one is like logistics. You absolutely have to change how you run a meeting with 20 people from how you led the same meeting with 5. But again, the goals, the sequence of steps, the governing rituals – none of that changes. In general, smaller meetings are easier to run and more successful on a day-to-day basis. But if you legitimately need 20 people involved in that decision, and sometimes you do, that is an issue of scale rather than kind.

Operating Context

What comes before the meeting and what’s happening in the larger ecosystem can have a huge impact on how a team approaches a meeting. A decision-making meeting held in times of abundance feels radically different than one you run to try and figure out how to save a sinking ship . Even so, the underlying principles for sound decision-making remain the same. Some situations absolutely make it much harder to succeed, but they don’t, in our opinion, make it a fundamentally different kind of meeting.

Now, given that extended lead-up, what types did we end up with?

The 16 (+1) Types of Meetings

I’ve broken our list into three main groupings below and provided details for each type. Then, at the end, you’ll find a table with all the meeting types listed for easy comparison and a spreadsheet you can download.

Quickly, here’s the list. Details are below.

Team Cadence Meetings

  • Progress Updates

One-on-Ones

  • Action Review Meetings

Governance Cadence Meetings

  • Idea Generation Meetings

Planning Meetings

  • Decision Making Meeting

Sensemaking

  • Introductions

Issue Resolution Meetings

  • Community of Practice Meetings

Training Sessions

Broadcast meetings.

meeting-types-chart

Want to learn more about this chart? See the follow-up post on the Periodic Table of Meetings .  

Cadence Meetings We Review, Renew, Refine – Meetings with Known Participants and Predictable Patterns

As we do the work of our organizations, we learn. The plans we made on day one may work out the way we expected, but maybe not. New stuff comes up and before too long it becomes obvious that we need to adjust course.

Organizations use these meetings to review performance, renew team connections, and refine their approach based on what they’ve learned.

All of these meetings involve an established group of people, with perhaps the occasional guest. Most happen at regular and predictable intervals, making up the strategic and operational cadence of the organization.

These meetings all follow a regularized pattern; each meeting works basically like the last one and teams know what to expect. Because the participants and the format are predicatable, these meetings often require less up-front planning and less specialized facilitation expertise to succeed.

The meeting types in this group are:

  • Ensure group cohesion
  • Drive execution
  • the Weekly Team Meeting
  • the Daily Huddle
  • the Shift-Change Meeting
  • a Regular Committee Meeting
  • the Sales Team Check-In Meeting

Expected Participation Profile

These meetings are typically led by the “boss” or manager, but they can be effectively led by any team member. The best results happen when everyone invited engages collaboratively. Healthy relationships are important to meeting success.

Meeting Format

Team cadence meetings follow a regular pattern or standard agenda, which can be very ritualistic. Team meetings should surface new information and challenges, but big surprises are not welcome here. (Unless they’re super awesome!) These meetings are about keeping an established team personally connected and moving towards a common goal, and not about inspiring major change.

To learn more, visit our Team Cadence Meetings Resource Center.

Back to the list of types ⇧

Progress Checks

  • Maintain project momentum
  • Ensure mutual accountability
  • the Project Status Meeting
  • the Client Check-In

Project managers and account managers lead these meetings, and everyone else participates in a fairly structured way. In many ways, these meetings are designed to inform and reassure people that everyone else on the team is doing what they said they’d do, or if not, to figure out what they all need to do to get back on track. Functional relationships matter, but it’s not as important to the overall result that these people enjoy each other’s company. Because these meetings are mostly designed to “make sure everything is still working”, which matters to project success and the organization’s ability to plan, they can often be very boring for the individual contributors who already know what’s going on with their work.

Project updates follow a regular pattern. Some are very strict, others less so; this varies by the team and the kind of work they do. Surprises are entirely unwelcome. Any major surprise will cause a meeting failure and derail the planned agenda.

To learn more, visit our Progress Check Meetings Resource Center.

  • Career and personal development
  • Individual accountability
  • Relationship maintenance
  • the Manager-Employee One-on-One
  • a Coaching Session
  • a Mentorship Meeting
  • the “Check In” with an Important Stakeholder

These meetings involve two people with an established relationship. The quality of that relationship is critical to success in these meetings, and leadership may alternate between the participants based on their individual goals. While these meetings may follow an agenda, the style is entirely conversational. In some instances, the only distinction between a one-on-one and a plain ol’ conversation is the fact that the meeting was scheduled in advance to address a specific topic.

One-on-ones are the loosey goosiest meetings in this set. Experienced and dedicated leaders will develop an approach to one-on-ones that they use often, but the intimate nature of these meetings defies rigid structure. People tend not to enjoy surprises in one-on-ones, but they infinitely prefer to learn surprising news in these meetings rather than in a team or governance cadence meeting. If you’re going to quit or fly to the moon or you’ve just invented the cure to aging, you’re way better off telling your manager privately before you share that with the board.

To learn more, visit our One-on-One Meetings Resource Center.

Action Reviews

  • Learning: gain insight
  • Develop confidence
  • Generate recommendations for change
  • Project and Agile Retrospectives
  • After Action Reviews and Before Action Reviews (Military)
  • Pre-Surgery Meetings (Healthcare)
  • Win/Loss Review (Sales)

These meetings are led by a designated person from the team. When run well, action reviews demand highly engaged and structured participation from everyone present. Because action reviews are so structured, they don’t require the individuals involved to be great friends. They do, however, require professionalism, focus, a commitment to building psychological safety, and strong engagement. Action reviews that happen too infrequently or too far away in time from the action tend to become more conversational and less powerful.

Action reviews are highly ritualistic; these are the kind of meetings that inspire the use of the word “ritual”. The action review is a tool for continuous learning; the more frequently these are run and the tighter the team gets, the faster they learn and improve. Teams can and will change how they run these meetings over time based on what they’ve learned, and this avid pursuit of change for the better is itself part of the ritual. Action reviews take surprise in stride. The whole point is to learn and then refine future action, so while huge surprises may cause chagrin, they are embraced as lessons and used accordingly.

Can you tell these are some of my favorite meetings?

To learn more, visit our Action Review Meetings Resource Center.

  • Strategic definition and oversight
  • Regulatory compliance and monitoring
  • Board Meetings
  • Quarterly Strategic Reviews
  • QBR (a quarterly review between a vendor and client)

The teams involved in governance meetings are known in advance but don’t necessarily work together often. Nor do they need to; these aren’t the kind of meetings where everyone has to be pals to get good results. These meetings are led by a chair or official company representative, and participation is structured. This means that while there are often times for free conversation during a governance meeting, much of the participation falls into prescribed patterns. These are often the kind of meetings that warrant nicer shoes.

Governance cadence meetings are highly structured. When run professionally, there is always an agenda, it is always shared in advance, and minutes get recorded. Governance meetings are NOT the time for surprises. In fact, best practice for important board meetings includes making sure everyone coming to that meeting gets a personal briefing in advance (see Investigative or One-on-Ones) to ensure no one is surprised in the meeting. A surprise in a governance cadence meeting means someone screwed up.

To learn more, visit our Governance Cadence Meetings Resource Center.

Catalyst Meetings The Right Group to Create Change – Meetings with Participants and Patterns Customized to Fit the Need

New ideas, new plans, projects to start, problems to solve, and decisions to make—these meetings change an organization’s work.

These meetings are all scheduled as needed, and include the people the organizers feel to be best suited for achieving the meeting goals. They succeed when following a thoughtful meeting design and regularly fail when people “wing it”.

Because these meetings are scheduled as needed with whomever is needed, there is a lot more variation in format between meetings. This is the realm of participatory engagement, decision and sense-making activities, and when the group gets larger, trained facilitation.

Idea Generation

  • Create a whole bunch of ideas
  • Ad Campaign Brainstorming Session
  • User Story Brainstorming
  • Fundraiser Brainstorming

Idea generation meetings often include participants from an established team, but not always. These meetings are led by a facilitator and participants contribute new ideas in a structured way. While it’s always nice to meet with people you know and like, established relationships don’t necessarily improve outcomes for these meetings. Instead, leaders who want to get the widest variety of ideas possible are better off including participants with diverse perspectives and identities. Relationships are not central here; ideas are.

These meetings start with the presentation of a central premise or challenge, then jump into some form of idea generation. There are loads of idea-generation techniques, all of which involve a way for participants to respond to a central challenge with as many individual ideas as possible. Unlike workshops or problem-solving meetings, the group may not attempt to coalesce or refine their ideas in the meeting. Here, idea volume matters more than anything else. Organizations run these meetings when they aren’t sure what to do yet; the whole meeting is an entreaty to serendipity. As such, there are few governing principles beyond the rule to never interfere with anyone else’s enthusiasm.

To learn more, visit our Idea Generation Meetings Resource Center.

  • Create plans
  • Secure commitment to implementing the plans
  • Project Planning
  • Campaign Planning (Marketing)
  • Product Roadmap Planning
  • and so on. Every group that makes things has a planning meeting.

Planning meetings often involve an existing team, but also involve other people as needed. Depending on the size and scope of the plans under development, these meetings are led by the project owner or by an outside facilitator. Participants are expected to actively collaborate on the work product. They may or may not have established relationships; if not, some time needs to be spent helping people get to know each other and understand what each of them can contribute. That said, these meetings are about getting a job done, so relationships don’t get central focus.

Planning meetings vary depending on the kind of plan they’re creating, but generally start with an explanation of the overall goal, an analysis of the current situation, and then work through planning details. Planning meetings end with a review and confirmation of the plan created. Planning meetings are not governed by rules nor do they follow specific rituals; the meeting format is dictated more by the planning format than anything else. Because planning meetings happen very early in an endeavor’s life cycle, successful meetings design for serendipity. Anything you can learn during this meeting that makes the plan better is a good thing!

To learn more, visit our Planning Meetings Resource Center.

  • Group formation
  • Commitment and clarity on execution
  • One or more tangible results; real work product comes out of workshops
  • Project, Program and Product Kickoffs
  • Team Chartering
  • Design Workshops
  • Value Stream Mapping
  • Strategy Workshops
  • Team Building workshops

Groups are assembled specifically for these meetings and guided by a designated facilitator. These meetings put future work into motion, so the focus may be split equally between the creation of a shared work product (such as a value stream map or charter document) and team formation since successful team relationships make all the future work easier. Workshops often incorporate many of the elements you find in other types of meetings. For example, a workshop may include information gathering, idea generation, problem solving, and planning altogether.

Because they attempt to achieve so much more than other meetings, workshops take longer to run and way longer to plan and set up. Most workshops expect participants to actively engage and collaborate in the creation of a tangible shared result, and a lot of effort goes into planning very structured ways to ensure that engagement. When it comes to business meetings, these are also often as close to a working party as it gets.

Smaller kickoffs may follow a simple pattern and be held in the team’s regular meeting space, but many workshops take place in a special location; somewhere off-site, outside, or otherwise distinct from the normal work environment. All these meetings start with introductions and level-setting of some kind: a group exercise, a review of the project goals, and perhaps a motivational speech from the sponsor. Then, the team engages in a series of exercises or activities in pursuit of the work product. Since these meetings are long, coffee and cookies may be expected. Workshops conclude with a review of the work product, and often a reflective exercise. That said, while the basic pattern for a workshop is fairly standard, these are bespoke meetings that do not adhere to any particular rituals. The people who plan and facilitate the meeting work hard to create opportunities for serendipity; they want the team to discover things about each other and the work that inspires and engages them.

To learn more, visit our Workshops Resource Center.

Problem Solving

  • Find a solution to a problem
  • Secure commitment to enact the solution
  • Incident Response
  • Strategic Issue Resolution
  • Major Project Change Resolution

These meetings involve anyone who may have information that helps the group find a solution and anyone who will need to implement the solution. Depending on the urgency of the situation, the meeting will be led by the person in charge (the responsible leader) or a facilitator. Everyone present is expected to collaborate actively, answering all questions and diligently offering assistance. Tight working relationships can help these meetings go more easily, and participants who establish trust can put more energy into finding solutions since they worry less about blame and personal repercussions. That said, these meetings need the participation of the people with the best expertise, and these people may not know each other well. When this happens, the meeting leader should put extra effort into creating safety in the group if they want everyone’s best effort.

Problem solving meetings begin with a situation analysis (what happened, what resources do we have), then a review of options. After the team discusses and selects an option, they create an action plan. We’ve all seen the shortest version of this meeting in movies when the police gather outside of the building full of hostages and collaborate to create their plan. Problem solving meetings follow this basic structure, which can be heavily ritualized in first responder and other teams devoted to quickly solving problems. These strict governing procedures get looser when problems aren’t so urgent, but the basic pattern remains.

In a problem solving meeting, the ugly surprise already happened. Now the team welcomes serendipity, hoping a brilliant solution will emerge.

To learn more, visit our Problem Solving Meetings Resource Center.

Decision Making

  • A documented decision
  • Commitment to act on that decision
  • New Hire Decision
  • Go/No-Go Decision
  • Logo Selection
  • Final Approval of a Standard

Often a decision-making meeting involves a standing team, but like problem solving meetings, not always. These meetings may also include people who will be impacted by the decision or have expertise to share, even if they aren’t directly responsible for implementing the decision. Decision making meetings may be led by a designated facilitator, but more often the senior leader or chair runs them. People participate in decision making meetings as either advisers or decision makers. If the decision under discussion is largely a formality, this participation will be highly structured. If, on the other hand, the group is truly weighing multiple options, the participation style will be much more collaborative. Established relationships are not central to decision making meetings, but the perceived fairness and equanimity of the discussion is. When the group behaves in a way that makes it unsafe to voice concerns, these concerns go unaddressed which then weakens commitment to the decision.

Decision making meetings involve the consideration of options and the selection of a final option. Unlike problem solving meetings that include a search for good options, all that work to figure out the possible options happens before the decision making meeting. In many cases, these meetings are largely a formality intended to finalize and secure commitment to a decision that’s already been made. Ritual is high, and surprises unwelcome. In other situations, the group is weighing multiple options and seeking to make a selection in the meeting. There still shouldn’t be any big surprises, but there’s a whole lot more flexibility. For example, corporate leadership teams run decision-making meetings when faced with unexpected strategic challenges. Many of these teams revert to a structure-free conversational meeting approach; just “talking it out” until they reach a decision. Unfortunately for them, teams make the best decisions when their meetings follow a formal decision-making methodology .

To learn more, visit our Decision Making Meetings Resource Center.

Context Meetings Efforts to Evaluate and Influence – Meetings Between Us and Them, with Info to Share and Questions to Answer

These meetings are all designed to transfer information and intention from one person or group to another. They are scheduled by the person who wants something with the people they want to influence or get something from.

At the surface, that sounds Machiavellian, but the intention here is rarely nefarious. Instead, these meetings often indicate a genuine interest in learning, sharing, and finding ways to come together for mutual benefit.

Because each of these meetings involves some form of social evaluation, the format and rituals have more to do with etiquette and interpersonal skills than regulations or work product, although this is not always the case.

  • To learn things that you can use to inform later action
  • To gain an understanding of the current state of a project, organization, or system
  • Peer Consults (aka Braintrusts)
  • Project Discovery Meetings
  • Incident Investigations
  • Market Research Panels

Expected Participant Profile

These meetings may be led by an interviewer or facilitator. Participants include the people being interviewed and sometimes a set of observers. Engagement in sensemaking meetings may feel conversational, but it always follows a clear question-response structure. Most interviewers work to develop a rapport with the people they’re interviewing, since people often share more freely with people they perceive as friendly and trustworthy. That said, many sensemaking meetings work fine without rapport, because the person sharing information is expecting to benefit from it in the future. For example, if a doctor asks a patient to describe his symptoms, the patient does so willingly because he expects the doctor will use that information to help him feel better.

Many interviews are governed by rules regarding privacy, non-disclosure, and discretion. These formalities may be addressed at the beginning or end of the session. Otherwise, there are no strong patterns for a sensemaking session. Instead, people regularly working in these meetings focus on asking better questions. Like idea generation meetings, information gathering meetings delight in serendipity. Unlike idea generation meetings, however, the goal is not to invent new solutions but rather to uncover existing facts and perspectives.

To learn more, visit our Sensemaking Meetings Resource Center.

  • Learn about each other
  • Decide whether to continue the relationship
  • a Job Interview
  • the First Meeting Between Professionals
  • the Sales Pitch
  • the First Meeting with a Potential Vendor
  • the Investor Pitch

Introduction meetings are led by the person who asked for the meeting. The person or people invited to the meeting may also work to lead the discussion, or they may remain largely passive; they get to engage however they see fit because they’re under no obligation to spend any more time here than they feel necessary. People attempt to engage conversationally in most introductions, but when the social stakes increase or the prospect of mutual benefit is significantly imbalanced, the engagement becomes increasingly one-sided.

There are no strict rules for meetings of this type as a whole, but that doesn’t make them ad-hoc informal events. On the contrary, sales teams, company founders, and young professionals spend many long hours working to “hone their pitch”. They hope this careful preparation will reduce the influence of luck and the chances of an unhappy surprise. The flow of the conversation will vary depending on the situation. These meeting can go long, get cut short, and quickly veer into tangents. It’s up to the person who asked for the meeting to ensure the conversation ends with a clear next step.

To learn more, visit our Introduction Meetings Resource Center.

  • A new agreement
  • Commitment to further the relationship
  • Support Team Escalation
  • Contract Negotiations and Renewals
  • Neighbor Dispute

These meetings are led by a designated negotiator or moderator or, if a neutral party isn’t available, by whoever cares about winning more. All parties are expected to engage in the discussion, although how they engage will depend entirely on the current state of their relationship. If the negotiation is tense, the engagement will be highly structured to prevent any outright breakdown. If the relationship is sound, the negotiation may be conducted in a very conversational style. Obviously, relationship quality plays a central role in the success of a negotiation or issue resolution meeting.

The format for these meetings is entirely dependent on the situation. Formal treaty negotiations between countries follow a very structured and ritualistic format. Negotiations between individual leaders, however, may be hashed out on the golf course. These meetings are a dance, so while surprises may not be welcome, they are expected.

To learn more, visit our Issue Resolution Meetings Resource Center.

Community of Practice Gatherings

  • Topic-focused exchange of ideas
  • Relationship development
  • The Monthly Safety Committee Meeting
  • The Project Manager’s Meetup
  • The Lunch-n-Learn

The people at these meetings volunteer to be there because they’re interested in the topic. An organizer or chair opens the meeting and introduces any presenters. Participants are expected to engage convivially, ask questions, engage in exercises when appropriate, and network when there isn’t a presentation going. These meetings are part social, part content, and the style is relaxed.

Most of these meetings begin with mingling and light conversation. Then, the organizers will call for the group’s attention and begin the prepared part of the meeting. This could follow a traditional agenda, as they do in a Toastmaster’s meeting, or it may include a group exercise or a presentation by an invited speaker. There’s time for questions, and then more time at the end to resume the casual conversations begun at the meeting start. People in attendance are there to learn about the topic, but also to make connections with others that create opportunities. Many hope for serendipity.

To learn more, visit our Community of Practice Meetings Resource Center.

  • To transfer knowledge and skills
  • Client Training on a New Product
  • New Employee On-Boarding
  • Safety Training

The trainer leads training sessions, and participants follow instructions. Participants may be there by choice, or they may be required to attend training by their employer. There is no expectation of collaboration between the trainer and the participants; these are pure transfers of information from one group to the next.

Training session formats vary widely. In the simplest form, the session involves the trainer telling participants what they believe they need to learn, and then participants ask questions. Instructional designers and training professionals can make training sessions way more engaging than that.

To learn more, visit our Training Meetings Resource Center.

  • To share information that inspires (or prevents) action
  • the All-Hands Meeting

Broadcast meetings are led by the meeting organizer. This person officially starts the meeting and then either runs the presentation or introduces the presenters. People invited to the meeting may have an opportunity to ask questions, but for the most part, they are expected to listen attentively. While they include presentations in the same way a Community of Practice meeting does, they do not provide an opportunity for participants to engage in casual conversation and networking. These are not collaborative events.

Broadcast meetings start and end on time. They begin with brief introductions which are followed by the presentation. Questions may be answered periodically, or held until the last few minutes. Because these meetings include announcements or information intended to inform later action, participants often receive follow-up communication: a copy of the slides, a special offer or invitation, or in the case of an all-hands meeting, a follow-up meeting with the manager to talk about how the big announcement impacts their team. The people leading a broadcast meeting do not expect and do not welcome surprises. The people participating often don’t know what to expect.

To learn more, visit our Broadcast Meetings Resource Center.

That said, I have heard people call broadcasts and training sessions “meetings” on multiple occasions. The all-staff meeting is often just announcements, but people call it a meeting. Project folks will schedule a “meeting to go over the new system” with a client, and that’s basically a lightweight training session.

And if we look at meetings as a tool we use to move information through our organizations, create connections between the people in our organizations, and drive work momentum, broadcast meetings and training sessions certainly fit that bill (as we’ll see in the story below).

Table: All 16 Meeting Types in the Taxonomy of Business Meetings

Meeting Types Intention Participation and Format

Create a whole bunch of ideas

To learn things that you can use to inform later action

To share information that inspires (or prevents) action

To transfer knowledge and skills

Now that you’ve seen the details, download this table as a spreadsheet .

Why a spreadsheet?

I expect people to use the taxonomy in one of these ways.

  • Take inventory of your organization’s meetings. Which of these do you run, and which should you run? If you’re running one of these kinds of meetings and it isn’t working, what can you see here that may point to a better way?
  • Make the taxonomy better. At the end of the day, our list of 16 types is just as arbitrary as MeetingSift’s list of 6 types. What did we miss? What doesn’t work? Let us know. Comments are welcome.
Since all models are wrong the scientist cannot obtain a “correct” one by excessive elaboration. On the contrary following William of Occam he should seek an economical description of natural phenomena. Just as the ability to devise simple but evocative models is the signature of the great scientist so overelaboration and overparameterization is often the mark of mediocrity. George Box in 1976 Journal of the American Statistical Association

Or, stated more economically, “ All models are wrong, but some are useful. ” We’ve tried to hit a mark that’s useful in a way that simpler lists were not. We invite your feedback to tell us how we did.

The 17th Type: BIG Meetings and Conferences

Just when you think you’ve really broadened your horizons and been very thoroughly inclusive, you meet someone who sets you straight. I recently had the pleasure of meeting  Maarten Vanneste , who is also a dedicated advocate for meeting design and the meeting design profession . It turns out that while we are using the same words, Maarten works in a very different world where a “meeting” might be a multi-day conference with dozens of sessions and a highly paid keynote speaker or 10. In that world, meeting planners handle logistics, room reservations, lighting requirements, branding, promotions… a wealth of detail that far exceeds anything we might worry about for even the most involved strategic planning workshop.

This is so different, why even mention it?

Because it’s another example of how using a generic word like “meeting” leads to bad assumptions . In case it isn’t clear, in this article when we talk about meetings and meeting design, we’re talking about the 16 types of day-to-day business meetings listed above. Professional meeting planning is a whole different kettle of fish.

How Different Types of Meetings Work Together: A Tale of 25 Meetings

To illustrate how the different kinds of meetings work together, let’s look at a typical sequence of meetings that you might expect to see in the first year of a company’s relationship with a major new client.

This is the story of two companies: ACME, makers of awesome products, and ABC Corp, a company that needs what ACME makes, and all the people working in these two companies that make their business flow.

Sam likes what he saw in the webinar.

Peter calls Sam and they schedule a demo meeting.

Peter tells Jill and the sales team about the upcoming demo with Sam at ABC.

Peter, Jill and Henri prepare before the demo with Sam at ABC.

Peter and Henri give a demo to Sam and Ellen. Ellen is impressed and asks for a quote.

Jill tells the CEO and the rest of the leadership team about the big ABC deal her sales team is working so everyone can prepare.

Peter goes over all the requests in his meeting with Ellen to make sure he understands them, but he’s in no position to authorize those changes. After the meeting, he takes the requests back to Jill.

Peter discusses the contract with Ellen. Ellen wants a better contract.

The leadership team meets to decide how to respond to Ellen’s contract demands. And they do!

Several more negotiation meetings and a security review later, and the deal is signed! Meeting 9: The Sales Handoff (Type: Introduction ) Now that the contract is signed, it’s time to get the project team involved. Peter arranges a meeting between Ellen and Sam and the customer team from ACME: Gary the project manager, Henri the solutions analyst, and Esme the account manager. Going forward, Gary, Henri and Esme will handle all the communication with Sam from ABC Corp. Before the meeting ends, the ACME team schedules a trip to visit ABC Corp the following week.

Peter introduces Sam and Ellen to the ACME team: Gary, Henri, and Esme.

Jill, Peter and the sales review the lessons they learned closing the ABC deal.

Sam escorts Gary, Henri, and Esme through a day of discovery meetings at ABC Corp.

With the background set, everyone works together to draft the project plan. People from the implementation team suggest ways they can easily handle some requirements, and identify items that will require extra time and creativity. They begin a list of issues to solve and one of risks to manage. Starting from the desired end date and working backwards, they work together to build out a draft timeline that shows the critical path, times when they’ll need committed resources from ABC, and places where they just aren’t sure yet what they’ll find. When they feel they understand how the project will go as best they can, they review their draft plan and assign action items. Gary will work on the project timeline, matching their draft plan with available resources and factoring in holidays. Henri will contact Sam to go over questions from the implementation team, and Esme will schedule the kickoff meeting with the client team.

Gary, Henri, and Esme meet with the implementation team members to draft a project plan.

Next, both teams dig into the details. They go over the project plan ACME created and suggest changes. They establish performance goals for how they expect to use the product, making it clear what a successful implementation will look like. They talk about how they’ll communicate during the project and schedule a series of project update meetings. They take breaks and get to know each other, and share cookies. Then they get serious and talk about what might go wrong, and outline what they can do now to increase their odds of success.

At the end, Ellen rejoins them and the group shares their updated project plan with her. They explain changes they made and concerns they still have, and ask a few questions. Finally, they go over exactly who does what next, and set clear expectations about how and when everyone will see progress. With the kickoff complete, they all adjourn to the local pub to relax and continue getting acquainted.

Esme and Ellen lead team members from both companies through the project kickoff

Happily for Gary, the ABC project is right on schedule. For now.

Gary, the other ACME PMs, and the ACME implementation team discuss project progress every week.

Surprise, Gary! Gary hates surprises.

Sam tells Gary there’s been a major shake-up at ABC, and the project is on hold. Oh no! What will Gary do?

Belinda can’t answer those questions, but she helps Gary relax and promises to get a team together who can give him the guidance he needs.

Gary meets one-on-one with his boss Belinda, and they make a plan.

Belinda, Gary, and the leadership team meet find a solution to the problems with the ABC project.

When Gary, Esme, and Sam meet, they each share their constraints and goals, then focus on those places where they seem to be at an impasse. 90 minutes of back and forth, and they reach a deal. The project deadline will move out 2 weeks because of the delay at ABC, but in recompense for the missed deadline, ACME will provide 4 additional training sessions at no charge for all the people at ABC that were just reassigned and need to be brought up to speed. It’s not perfect, but it works and the project gets back on track.

Esme and Gary meet with Sam to negotiate how they’ll finish the project.

ACME trainers teach the ABC team how to use the product.

Gary, Esme and the ACME team, along with Sam and the ABC team, meet with the ABC leadership group. They present their progress, sharing slides with graphs of tasks complete and milestones met. The leadership team asks questions along the way, making sure they understand the implications of the upcoming product launch. When everyone is satisfied, they turn to the CEO who is the decision maker in this meeting.

The launch is approved, and the new system goes live.

Gary, Esme, Sam and their teams ask the new ABC CEO to approve the project. She does!

Everyone agrees that, for the most part, this was a successful project. The client is happy, the product works well, and they made money. Still, there are lessons to learn. Peter and Henri realize that they saw signs that the situation at ABC wasn’t stable in those first few conversations, but they were so eager to win the client that they dismissed them. In the future, they’ll know to pay attention more closely. Gary and the implementation team discovered ways they could keep the project running even when the client isn’t responding, and they’ll build that into their next project plan. At the end of the meeting, the group walks away with a dozen key lessons and ideas for experiments they can try to make future projects even better.

The ACME team meets to discuss what they learned from the ABC project.

The ACME CEO talks about the ABC project with the ACME Board, and gets approval to pursue a new market.

Esme reviews how the product is working out for the ABC team with Sam in the Quarterly Business Review.

This case study becomes a central piece of content in the new marketing campaign approved earlier by ACME’s board.

The ACME marketing team interviews Sam about his experience with their products for a case study.

Sam tells Esme she’ll need to renew the contract with the new head of procurement. Esme gets ready.

Phew! What a journey.

We’ve talked about why it’s important to get specific about the kind of meeting you’re in, and then we looked at our taxonomy for classifying those meetings. Then, we explored how different types of meetings all work together to keep people connected and move work forward in the story of ACME and ABC.

In many ways, the story of Gary, Sam, Esme and the gang is just a story of people doing their jobs. A lot of people work on projects that run like the one described here. Sometimes everything works fine, other times they freak out; nothing unusual there. What you may not have paid much attention to before, and what the story works to highlight, is how often what happens on that journey is determined by the outcome of a meeting. The other thing we can see is that, while those folks on the implementation team may have thought the few meetings they attended were a waste of time, their contributions during meetings helped make the ABC project a success and had a major impact on the direction of the company. When we show up and participate in meetings, we connect with people who will then go on to different types of meetings with other people, connecting the dots across our organization and beyond.

With that in mind, let’s close by revisiting Simon Jenkins’ gripping headline:

Crushing morale, killing productivity – why do offices put up with meetings? There’s no proof that organisations benefit from the endless cycle of these charades, but they can’t stop it. We’re addicted.

Is it possible to run meetings that crush morale and kill productivity? Yes, of course it is. That doesn’t mean, however, that meetings are simply a useless addiction we can’t kick.

It means that some people are running the wrong kind of meetings, and others are running the right meetings in the wrong way. Not everyone does everything well. Have you ever eaten a sandwich from a vending machine? If so, you know that people are capable of producing all kinds of crap that does not reflect well on them or on the larger body of work their offering represents.

In the working world, meetings are where the action is. Run the right meeting well, and you can engage people in meaningful work and drive productivity.

Seems like a pretty nice benefit to me, and hopefully this taxonomy helps us all get there. 

General FAQ

Why do meeting types matter.

In the working world, meetings are where the action is. Run the right meeting well, and you can engage people in meaningful work and drive productivity. But if you’re running the wrong meeting, you’re pushing a heavy rock up a tall mountain.

What are the three main categories of meetings?

  • Cadence Meetings – the regularly repeated meetings that make up the vast majority of the meetings held in the modern workplace.
  • Catalyst Meetings – scheduled as needed, and include the people the organizers feel to be best suited for achieving the meeting goals.
  • Learn and Influence Meetings – designed to transfer information and intention from one person or group to another.

What are examples of Cadence Meetings?

  • Team cadence meetings
  • Progress check meetings
  • One-on-One meetings
  • Action review meetings
  • Governance cadence meetings

What are examples of Catalyst Meetings?

  • Idea generation meetings
  • Planning meetings
  • Problem solving meetings
  • Decision making meetings

What are examples of Learn and Influence Meetings?

  • Sensemaking meetings
  • Issue resolution meetings
  • Community of Practice meetings
  • Training meetings
  • Broadcast meetings

To explore each of the 16 Meeting Types in more detail, visit our Interactive Chart of Meeting Types

Want More? Check out our Online Meeting  School!

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Meeting Norms 101: Key Strategies for Productive Meetings

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Meeting norms are the unspoken rules that guide our interactions during meetings. They encompass behaviors, expectations, and practices that ensure every meeting is productive and engaging. Establishing clear meeting norms can significantly improve communication, efficiency, and team morale.

This article will provide comprehensive strategies for creating and implementing effective meeting norms tailored to different types of meetings.

What are Meeting Norms?

Meeting norms are the agreed-upon guidelines that dictate how meetings should be conducted. They cover everything from punctuality to communication styles and decision-making processes. These norms are crucial because they:

  • Set clear expectations for behavior and participation.
  • Ensure meetings run smoothly and efficiently.
  • Foster an inclusive and respectful environment.
  • Enhance the overall effectiveness of team collaboration.

Understanding and establishing meeting norms is the first step towards more productive and enjoyable meetings. Well-defined norms can prevent misunderstandings, reduce friction, and create a more collaborative atmosphere.

Examples of Meeting Norms

1. project kickoff meetings.

Project kickoff meetings set the stage for the entire project. Effective norms for these meetings include:

Setting Clear Objectives: Clearly outline the project’s goals and ensure all team members understand their importance. This provides a common direction and purpose.

Defining Roles: Assign specific roles and responsibilities to each team member to avoid confusion later. Everyone should know what is expected of them.

Establishing Timelines: Set realistic timelines and milestones to track progress. This helps keep the project on schedule and allows for timely adjustments.

Example Scenario: A marketing team kicking off a new campaign project can benefit greatly from kickoff meetings with well-defined objectives and roles, leading to a streamlined execution of campaigns. For instance, the team leader can present a detailed project plan, outline the main objectives, and assign tasks to team members based on their expertise. This initial clarity sets a positive tone for the project and ensures everyone is on the same page.

2. Team Sync Meetings

Regular team sync meetings keep everyone aligned and address ongoing issues. Key norms include:

Agenda Setting: Always circulate the meeting agenda 24 hours in advance. This ensures that all participants are prepared and can contribute meaningfully.

Punctuality: Encourage team members to join the meeting on time. Punctuality shows respect for everyone’s time and keeps the meeting on schedule.

Follow-Ups: Regularly review action items from previous meetings. This accountability helps track progress and address any issues promptly.

For example, setting a consistent schedule for these meetings helps maintain a steady flow of information and ensures that all team members are up-to-date on project statuses. A typical team sync agenda might include a brief overview of current projects, a discussion of any roadblocks, and a review of upcoming deadlines.

3. Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming sessions thrive on open participation and respect for different viewpoints. Effective norms include:

Encouraging All Ideas: Create a safe space where all team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas. No idea should be dismissed outright.

Respecting Different Viewpoints: Ensure everyone’s viewpoints are respected. Diverse perspectives can lead to more innovative solutions.

Managing Time Effectively: Allocate specific times for each agenda item to keep the meeting focused. This prevents the session from becoming unproductive.

Round Robin Ensure everyone has a turn to speak
Brainwriting Write ideas silently before discussion
Mind Mapping Visualize connections between ideas

A product development team using structured brainstorming sessions can innovate new features more effectively. For instance, using a round robin approach ensures that quieter team members have a chance to contribute, while brainwriting can prevent groupthink by allowing individuals to generate ideas independently before sharing them with the group.

4. Client Meetings

Client meetings require thorough preparation and clear communication. Key norms are:

Preparation: Research the client’s needs and prepare relevant materials in advance. This shows professionalism and respect for the client’s time.

Clear Communication: Communicate clearly and professionally. Avoid jargon and ensure the client understands the discussion points.

Effective Follow-Ups: Send a summary of the meeting and next steps to the client promptly. This reinforces what was discussed and agreed upon.

For instance, a consultancy firm that prepares detailed follow-up emails after client meetings can ensure clear understanding and satisfaction. A typical follow-up email might include a summary of the key points discussed, a list of agreed-upon action items, and the next steps with associated deadlines.

5. Status Update Meetings

Status update meetings ensure all team members are informed about project progress. Important norms include:

Regular Scheduling: Set a consistent schedule for status update meetings. Regular updates keep everyone informed and help identify issues early.

Efficient Reporting: Encourage concise and clear updates from all participants. This keeps the meeting focused and efficient.

Minimizing Disruptions: Establish norms to minimize interruptions, such as saving questions for designated times.

Sample Agenda:

  • Project Updates: Brief updates from each team member.
  • Roadblocks: Discussion of any obstacles and potential solutions.
  • Next Steps: Outline immediate next steps and responsibilities.

These meetings help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that any issues can be addressed quickly. For example, a software development team might hold weekly status update meetings where each member briefly reports on their progress, highlights any blockers, and discusses their plans for the coming week.

6. Decision-Making Meetings

Decision-making meetings require careful preparation and active participation. Norms should focus on:

Preparation: Distribute relevant information before the meeting to ensure participants are well-prepared. This allows for more informed discussions.

Active Participation: Encourage all participants to share their perspectives and ideas. Diverse input can lead to better decisions.

Consensus Building: Use techniques like voting or consensus-building exercises to arrive at decisions. This ensures that the decision is supported by the group.

For example, a management team using structured discussion and clear decision articulation can make well-informed decisions efficiently. In a decision-making meeting, the leader might present the options, facilitate a discussion on the pros and cons of each, and then guide the group through a consensus-building process, such as a show of hands or a voting system.

7. Problem-Solving Meetings

Problem-solving meetings aim to identify issues and develop solutions. Key norms include:

Open Dialogue: Create an environment where all team members feel comfortable discussing problems. Openness leads to more effective problem-solving.

Systematic Analysis: Use structured methods like root cause analysis to identify the underlying issues. This ensures that the solutions address the real problem.

Action Planning: Develop a clear action plan with assigned responsibilities and timelines. This ensures accountability and follow-through.

A tech team using root cause analysis to address system outages can find long-term solutions more effectively. For example, after identifying the root cause of a recurring issue, the team can develop a detailed action plan to address it, assign specific tasks to team members, and set deadlines to ensure the problem is resolved in a timely manner.

Virtual meetings need norms to overcome remote communication challenges. Key norms include:

Punctuality: Encourage participants to join meetings on time. Punctuality is even more critical in virtual settings to respect everyone’s schedule.

Clear Communication: Use video whenever possible to enhance communication and reduce misunderstandings. Visual cues are important for effective communication.

Effective Technology Use: Leverage tools like Krisp to minimize background noise and improve the overall quality of virtual meetings.

  • Tool Integration: Use collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to facilitate seamless communication.
  • Meeting Etiquette : Establish norms for muting/unmuting, using the chat function, and signaling when you want to speak.

A remote team using Krisp to improve audio quality can ensure more productive discussions. For instance, by integrating Krisp into their virtual meetings, team members can focus better without the distraction of background noise, leading to clearer and more effective communication.

How to Establish Meeting Norms

Establishing effective meeting norms involves several steps:

  • Identify Needs: Assess the needs of your team to determine appropriate meeting norms. Consider the specific challenges and goals of your team.
  • Involve the Team: Involve team members in creating meeting norms to ensure buy-in and relevance. This collaborative approach leads to more effective norms.
  • Drafting Norms: Draft clear and concise meeting norms that are easy to understand and follow. Use simple language and be specific about expectations.

Example: A software development team might identify the need for better time management during meetings. By involving the team in drafting norms, they might agree on specific practices such as setting strict time limits for each agenda item and using a timer to stay on track.

Implementing Meeting Norms

To successfully implement meeting norms, consider the following strategies:

Communication: Clearly communicate the norms to all team members. Use multiple channels such as emails, team meetings, and documentation.

Training: Provide training to ensure everyone understands and can apply the norms. Role-playing scenarios can be helpful.

Enforcement: Consistently enforce the norms to maintain their effectiveness. Address any deviations promptly and constructively.

For instance, a project manager might hold a training session to explain the new meeting norms, followed by role-playing exercises to practice them. Regular check-ins can help ensure that the norms are being followed and address any issues that arise.

Krisp: Enhancing Virtual Meetings

Krisp meeting norms

In the digital age, virtual meetings have become increasingly common. However, they come with their own set of challenges, such as background noise, connectivity issues, and the lack of visual cues. This is where the AI Meeting Assistant Krisp comes in, offering innovative solutions to enhance virtual meeting experiences.

Noise Cancellation: Krisp uses advanced noise-canceling technology to eliminate background noise, ensuring that only the speaker’s voice is heard. This creates a more professional and focused meeting environment.

Echo Removal: In addition to noise cancellation, Krisp also offers echo removal features. This ensures that echo and reverberation are minimized, providing clearer audio during virtual meetings.

Multi-Platform Integration: Krisp can be integrated with various conferencing tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. This seamless integration ensures that users can benefit from Krisp’s features regardless of the platform they are using.

User-Friendly Interface: Krisp is designed with a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to activate and customize its features. Users can quickly set up noise cancellation, adjust settings, and monitor the effectiveness of Krisp during meetings.

Transcription: Krisp offers transcription services that automatically transcribe meetings in real-time. This feature is incredibly useful for creating accurate meeting records and ensuring that important points are not missed.

Meeting Recording: Krisp also supports meeting recording , allowing users to capture and store their meetings for future reference. This is particularly useful for teams that need to review meeting discussions or share them with absent members.

Meeting Note-Taking: With Krisp’s AI-powered note-taking capabilities, users can get concise summaries of their meetings. This feature helps in documenting key points, decisions, and action items without the need for manual note-taking.

Krisp’s features align perfectly with effective meeting norms. Here’s how Krisp enhances various aspects of meeting norms:

Enhancing Communication: With noise cancellation and echo removal, Krisp ensures that communication during meetings is clear and uninterrupted. This aligns with norms that prioritize effective and respectful communication.

Ensuring Accountability: Krisp’s transcription and meeting recording features provide accurate records of discussions. This helps in maintaining accountability, as participants can refer back to these records to review what was agreed upon and track action items.

Facilitating Inclusivity: The voice optimization feature ensures that all participants, regardless of their environment, can be heard clearly. This supports norms that aim to create an inclusive meeting environment where everyone’s voice is valued.

Improving Efficiency: By eliminating background noise and optimizing audio quality, Krisp helps keep meetings focused and efficient. This aligns with norms that emphasize punctuality, staying on topic, and minimizing distractions.

Streamlining Documentation: Krisp’s transcription and note-taking capabilities streamline the process of documenting meetings. This supports norms related to recording minutes, summarizing discussions, and distributing action items promptly.

By integrating Krisp into their virtual meetings, teams can enhance their adherence to effective meeting norms, ultimately leading to more productive and engaging meetings.

Tips for Maintaining Effective Meeting Norms

Maintaining meeting norms requires ongoing effort:

Regular Reviews: Regularly review and update meeting norms to keep them relevant. This ensures that norms evolve with the team’s needs and challenges.

Feedback: Collect feedback from team members to refine and improve norms. This collaborative approach ensures that the norms are effective and practical.

Flexibility: Be flexible and adaptable in maintaining meeting norms. Adjust norms as needed to address new challenges and opportunities.

For example, a marketing team might initially set a norm for weekly status meetings. However, after collecting feedback, they might find that bi-weekly meetings are more effective. Regularly reviewing and adjusting norms ensures they remain relevant and useful.

In conclusion, establishing and maintaining effective meeting norms is crucial for productive and engaging meetings. Meeting norms help set clear expectations, enhance communication, and create a more inclusive and respectful environment. By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can create a more organized, efficient, and positive meeting culture.

Implementing well-defined meeting norms tailored to different types of meetings—from project kickoffs and team syncs to brainstorming sessions and client meetings—can significantly improve your team’s productivity and collaboration. Regularly reviewing and updating these norms, collecting feedback, and being flexible will ensure that your meeting practices evolve with your team’s needs.

Moreover, leveraging technology like Krisp can further enhance the effectiveness of your virtual meetings. By reducing distractions and improving audio quality, Krisp helps create a more professional and focused meeting environment, which is essential in today’s remote work landscape.

Effective meeting norms not only enhance productivity but also improve team morale and collaboration. By taking the time to establish, implement, and maintain these norms, you can ensure that every meeting is a productive and engaging experience for all participants. Whether you are conducting project kickoff meetings, brainstorming sessions, or virtual meetings, these norms will help you achieve your goals efficiently and effectively.

By integrating these detailed and structured norms into your meeting practices, you can transform your meetings into productive and engaging sessions. Start implementing these strategies today, and watch your team’s productivity and collaboration soar.

  • Punctuality: Arrive on time and be prepared to start the meeting at the designated time.
  • Active Participation: Engage actively in discussions, listen respectfully, and contribute constructively.
  • Respectful Communication: Use positive language, avoid interrupting others, and respect differing opinions.
  • Focus on the Agenda: Stick to the agenda items, avoiding off-topic discussions to ensure the meeting stays on track.
  • Confidentiality: Maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information shared during the meeting.

These norms help create a collaborative and respectful environment, ensuring that meetings are productive and beneficial for all participants. What are examples of communication norms? Communication norms are agreed-upon guidelines that dictate how team members should communicate with each other. Examples of communication norms include:

  • Clarity and Conciseness: Communicate clearly and concisely, avoiding jargon and unnecessary details.
  • Active Listening: Listen attentively without interrupting, showing respect for the speaker.
  • Timely Responses: Respond to messages and emails within a set timeframe, such as 24 hours.
  • Constructive Feedback: Provide feedback in a constructive and respectful manner, focusing on the issue rather than the person.
  • Use of Appropriate Channels: Use the appropriate communication channels for different types of messages, such as email for formal communication and chat apps for quick updates.

These norms ensure effective and respectful communication, helping teams work more efficiently and harmoniously. What is an example of a group norm? A group norm is a standard or guideline agreed upon by group members to regulate behavior and interactions. An example of a group norm is: Meeting Etiquette Norm: During meetings, all group members should:

  • Arrive on time and come prepared.
  • Follow the meeting agenda and stay on topic.
  • Allow everyone an opportunity to speak without interruptions.
  • Listen actively and provide constructive feedback.
  • Keep discussions confidential when necessary.

This norm helps ensure that meetings are structured, inclusive, and productive, fostering a positive group dynamic. What are 5 team norms? Team norms are the shared expectations and rules that guide team members’ behavior and interactions. Five examples of team norms include:

  • Accountability: Team members should take responsibility for their tasks and deliverables, ensuring they meet deadlines and quality standards.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication, where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, feedback, and concerns.
  • Mutual Respect: Treat each other with respect, valuing diverse perspectives and contributions.
  • Collaboration: Foster a collaborative environment where team members work together to achieve common goals, supporting and helping each other as needed.
  • Continuous Improvement: Commit to continuous improvement by regularly reflecting on team processes and outcomes, and making necessary adjustments to enhance performance and productivity.

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A business journal from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

For New Ideas, Think Inside (This) Box

June 25, 2024 • 7 min read.

In this Nano Tool for Leaders, Penn's David Resnick offers guidance on using helpful constraints to unlock new solutions to old problems.

3d rendering of a bright lightbulb coming out of a box

Nano Tools for Leaders®   —  a collaboration between  Wharton Executive Education  and  Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management  — are fast, effective tools that you can learn and start using in less than 15 minutes, with the potential to significantly impact your success and the engagement and productivity of the people you lead.

Harness constraints and analogies to unlock new solutions to old problems.

Traditional brainstorming,  as coined by Alex Osborne in the 1950s, asks participants to consider any and all ideas that might solve a problem. While blue-sky, no-limits thinking has several benefits, the drawback is that leaders often, paradoxically, get stuck. They encounter challenges like the “curse of the blank page,” not knowing where to start because they can start anywhere. They may also face the “ Einstellung effect ,” a phenomenon whereby the easy recollection of familiar solutions can block their ability to think of new ones.

This has led some to (erroneously) believe that generating solutions is best left to people who are naturally creative. The good news is that there are tools that can help one become much better at generating new ideas. The even better news is that using these tools does not involve extensive training or attending workshops. In fact, one tool developed at Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Transformation and Innovation is a simple  card game , and the “secret sauce” it teaches is how to leverage constraints and analogies. The  Accelerators in Innovation  game has teams of players use accelerator cards to create new kinds of solutions with questions such as “How would you solve postpartum depression if you operated like IKEA?” and “How might you tackle long emergency room wait times if you were Warren Buffet?” The solutions are then applied to problems presented on challenge cards while trying to avoid monkey wrenches from their opponents. After rapid-fire pitches, the judge determines each round’s winner.

Action Steps

1. make sure you are solving a problem..

Don’t solve for how to implement a solution. A classic example involved a design team brought in to figure out how to increase access to incubators. The issue is that the solution was already baked in (increase access to incubators). The team spent some time reframing the problem to focus on the true issue: ensuring that newborns are kept at a safe temperature, especially when delivery occurs in places with little or no access to electricity. Reframing to focus on the actual problem opened the team to entirely different solutions.

2. Leverage analogies.

Having to pull ideas out of thin air can be difficult and stressful. Analogies force us to consider other options or perspectives we may never have thought of, or thought of and dismissed. They cause us to ask ourselves “What is good about this other solution and how might it be applied to solving the problem I’m facing?” Examples include:

Think about successful companies and how their strengths could be applied to your problem. For example, IKEA is phenomenal at clearly explaining to people with limited background knowledge and literacy how to do something. So how might IKEA go about explaining post-op care to knee replacement patients?

Similarly, try using personas. Mary Poppins is renowned for making an unpleasant experience a delightful one. Mr. Rogers is known for his commitment to leveraging the kindness of neighbors. Darth Vader’s approach to getting things done is a ruthless level punishment for those who fail. Regardless of whom you choose, you can use the strengths or philosophies of these characters to inspire ideas. How might Mary Poppins improve adherence to physical therapy regimens? How might Darth Vader?

3. Leverage constraints.

Constraints are, unintuitively, another great way to force new thinking. Some options are:

How might you solve a problem if you were forced to delete a crucial (but perhaps onerous or costly) step of the process? Great examples are “How might tollbooths collect fees without a human there to do it?” (FastPass) or “How might people get their rental car if there was no line to wait in?” (Hertz Gold).

Design for extremes

How might you solve the problem if you had to solve for extreme use cases or extreme targets? For example, what would it take to screen 100 percent of eligible patients for colon cancer? How might you reduce civilian traffic fatalities to zero?

Real-world issues

Apply real-world constraints that have thrown a monkey wrench in your plans for past ideas. For example, how might you create a new marketing campaign that must be successful for consumers who do not speak English? How might you build a new product to launch on time even if multiple team members take a sabbatical or parental leave?

Focus on solving for how to make your solution delightful to users. This isn’t about making something silly or fun. It’s about surprising your users in a manner that unexpectedly accomplishes something for them.

4. Push for volume.

An additional benefit to Penn Medicine’s  Accelerators  card game is that it encourages multiple rounds to hear multiple ideas. When thinking of solutions, push for volume in your initial rounds. You’ll soon “use up” the ideas that come to mind easily and be forced to consider more creative or audacious alternatives.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Another key component of generating ideas while playing a game is that it allows for laughter and a sense of play. This mindset can foster creativity and an atmosphere of psychological safety for sharing ideas.

How One Leader Uses It

Rebecca Trotta, PhD, director of the Center for Nursing Excellence at Penn, leveraged this tool in developing a new program to support older adults after hospitalization. Her challenge was to build a service that could provide intensive at-home support. Despite an existing evidence-based protocol, there was concern that patient acceptance of this support would be low. Many folks are simply exhausted after being in the hospital and don’t want someone in their home. Using the constraint of solving for “delight,” Trotta and her team came up with the idea of delivering home meals to these patients and their caregivers.

While it might appear as a frivolous and seemingly useless expense, it turned out that after spending days (and sometimes weeks) in the hospital, patients came home to fridges that were empty or full of spoiled food. Providing them with a meal ensured they had adequate nutrition. More importantly, though, the meals showed a sense of caring and thoughtfulness that went well beyond patients’ expectations. It built a strong sense of trust that paid dividends in drastically increasing the acceptance of home services compared to baseline.

Contributor to this Nano Tool

David Resnick, MPH, MSEd, Senior Innovation Manager at Penn Medicine’s Center for Health Care Transformation and Innovation.  Accelerators in Health Care  card game co-created with Michael Begley, MA, Senior Experience Consultant at EPAM Systems, and Visiting Professor and Assistant Program Director of Masters of UX at Thomas Jefferson University.

Knowledge in Action: Related Executive Education Programs

  • Effective Decision Making: Thinking Critically and Rationally
  • The Neuroscience of Business: Innovations in Leadership and Strategic Decisions
  • Mastering Innovation: Strategy, Process, and Tools
  • Business Model Innovation in the Age of AI

Additional Resources

Access all Wharton Executive Education Nano Tools

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Why a Partnership With OpenAI Benefits All Parties

How the pandemic accelerated the use of digital wallets, how financial frictions could hinder innovation, looking for more insights.

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If we’re all so busy, why isn’t anything getting done?

Have you ever asked why it’s so difficult to get things done in business today—despite seemingly endless meetings and emails? Why it takes so long to make decisions—and even then not necessarily the right ones? You’re not the first to think there must be a better way. Many organizations address these problems by redesigning boxes and lines: who does what and who reports to whom. This exercise tends to focus almost obsessively on vertical command relationships and rarely solves for what, in our experience, is the underlying disease: the poor design and execution of collaborative interactions.

About the authors

This article is a collaborative effort by Aaron De Smet , Caitlin Hewes, Mengwei Luo, J.R. Maxwell , and Patrick Simon , representing views from McKinsey’s People & Organizational Performance Practice.

In our efforts to connect across our organizations, we’re drowning in real-time virtual interaction technology, from Zoom to Slack to Teams, plus group texting, WeChat, WhatsApp, and everything in between. There’s seemingly no excuse to not collaborate. The problem? Interacting is easier than ever, but true, productive, value-creating collaboration is not. And what’s more, where engagement is occurring, its quality is deteriorating. This wastes valuable resources, because every minute spent on a low-value interaction eats into time that could be used for important, creative, and powerful activities.

It’s no wonder a recent McKinsey survey  found 80 percent of executives were considering or already implementing changes in meeting structure and cadence in response to the evolution in how people work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, most executives say they frequently find themselves spending way too much time on pointless interactions that drain their energy and produce information overload.

Most executives say they frequently find themselves spending way too much time on pointless interactions.

Three critical collaborative interactions

What can be done? We’ve found it’s possible to quickly improve collaborative interactions by categorizing them by type and making a few shifts accordingly. We’ve observed three broad categories of collaborative interactions (exhibit):

  • Decision making, including complex or uncertain decisions (for example, investment decisions) and cross-cutting routine decisions (such as quarterly business reviews)
  • Creative solutions and coordination, including innovation sessions (for example, developing new products) and routine working sessions (such as daily check-ins)
  • Information sharing, including one-way communication (video, for instance) and two-way communication (such as town halls with Q&As)

Below we describe the key shifts required to improve each category of collaborative interaction, as well as tools you can use to pinpoint problems in the moment and take corrective action.

Decision making: Determining decision rights

When you’re told you’re “responsible” for a decision, does that mean you get to decide? What if you’re told you’re “accountable”? Do you cast the deciding vote, or does the person responsible? What about those who must be “consulted”? Sometimes they are told their input will be reflected in the final answer—can they veto a decision if they feel their input was not fully considered?

It’s no wonder one of the key factors for fast, high-quality decisions is to clarify exactly who makes them. Consider a success story at a renewable-energy company. To foster accountability and transparency, the company developed a 30-minute “role card” conversation for managers to have with their direct reports. As part of this conversation, managers explicitly laid out the decision rights and accountability metrics for each direct report. The result? Role clarity enabled easier navigation for employees, sped up decision making, and resulted in decisions that were much more customer focused.

How to define decision rights

We recommend a simple yet comprehensive approach for defining decision rights. We call it DARE, which stands for deciders, advisers, recommenders, and executors:

Deciders are the only ones with a vote (unlike the RACI model, which helps determine who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed). If the deciders get stuck, they should jointly agree on how to escalate the decision or figure out a way to move the process along, even if it means agreeing to “disagree and commit.”

Advisers have input and help shape the decision. They have an outsize voice in setting the context of the decision and have a big stake in its outcome—for example, it may affect their profit-and-loss statements—but they don’t get a vote.

Recommenders conduct the analyses, explore the alternatives, illuminate the pros and cons, and ultimately recommend a course of action to advisers and deciders. They see the day-to-day implications of the decision but also have no vote. Best-in-class recommenders offer multiple options and sometimes invite others to suggest more if doing so may lead to better outcomes. A common mistake of recommenders, though, is coming in with only one recommendation (often the status quo) and trying to convince everyone it’s the best path forward. In general, the more recommenders, the better the process—but not in the decision meeting itself.

Executers don’t give input but are deeply involved in implementing the decision. For speed, clarity, and alignment, executers need to be in the room when the decision is made so they can ask clarifying questions and spot flaws that might hinder implementation. Notably, the number of executers doesn’t necessarily depend on the importance of the decision. An M&A decision, for example, might have just two executors: the CFO and a business-unit head.

To make this shift, ensure everyone is crystal clear about who has a voice but no vote or veto. Our research indicates while it is often helpful to involve more people in decision making, not all of them should be deciders—in many cases, just one individual should be the decider (see sidebar “How to define decision rights”). Don’t underestimate the difficulty of implementing this. It often goes against our risk-averse instinct to ensure everyone is “happy” with a decision, particularly our superiors and major stakeholders. Executing and sustaining this change takes real courage and leadership.

Creative solutions and coordination: Open innovation

Routine working sessions are fairly straightforward. What many organizations struggle with is finding innovative ways to identify and drive toward solutions. How often do you tell your teams what to do versus empowering them to come up with solutions? While they may solve the immediate need to “get stuff done,” bureaucracies and micromanagement are a recipe for disaster. They slow down the organizational response to the market and customers, prevent leaders from focusing on strategic priorities, and harm employee engagement. Our research suggests  key success factors in winning organizations are empowering employees  and spending more time on high-quality coaching interactions.

How microenterprises empower employees to drive innovative solutions

Haier, a Chinese appliance maker, created more than 4,000 microenterprises (MEs) that share common approaches but operate independently. Haier has three types of microenterprises:

  • Market-facing MEs have roots in Haier’s legacy appliance business, reinvented for today’s customer-centric, web-enabled world. They are expected to grow revenue and profit ten times faster than the industry average.
  • Incubating MEs focus on emerging markets such as e-gaming or wrapping new business models around familiar products. They currently account for more than 10 percent of Haier’s market capitalization.
  • “Node” MEs sell market-facing ME products and services such as design, manufacturing, and human-resources support.

Take Haier. The Chinese appliance maker divided itself into more than 4,000 microenterprises with ten to 15 employees each, organized in an open ecosystem of users, inventors, and partners (see sidebar “How microenterprises empower employees to drive innovative solutions”). This shift turned employees into energetic entrepreneurs who were directly accountable for customers. Haier’s microenterprises are free to form and evolve with little central direction, but they share the same approach to target setting, internal contracting, and cross-unit coordination. Empowering employees to drive innovative solutions has taken the company from innovation-phobic to entrepreneurial at scale. Since 2015, revenue from Haier Smart Home, the company’s listed home-appliance business, has grown by more than 18 percent a year, topping 209 billion renminbi ($32 billion) in 2020. The company has also made a string of acquisitions, including the 2016 purchase of GE Appliances, with new ventures creating more than $2 billion in market value.

Empowering others doesn’t mean leaving them alone. Successful empowerment, counterintuitively, doesn’t mean leaving employees alone. Empowerment requires leaders to give employees both the tools and the right level of guidance and involvement. Leaders should play what we call the coach role: coaches don’t tell people what to do but instead provide guidance and guardrails and ensure accountability, while stepping back and allowing others to come up with solutions.

Haier was able to use a variety of tools—including objectives and key results (OKRs) and common problem statements—to foster an agile way of working across the enterprise that focuses innovative organizational energy on the most important topics. Not all companies can do this, and some will never be ready for enterprise agility. But every organization can take steps to improve the speed and quality of decisions made by empowered individuals.

Managers who are great coaches, for example, have typically benefited from years of investment by mentors, sponsors, and organizations. We think all organizations should do more to improve the coaching skills of managers and help them to create the space and time to coach teams, as opposed to filling out reports, presenting in meetings, and other activities that take time away from driving impact through the work of their teams.

But while great coaches take time to develop, something as simple as a daily stand-up or check-in can drive horizontal connectivity, creating the space for teams to understand what others are doing and where they need help to drive work forward without having to specifically task anyone in a hierarchical way. You may also consider how you are driving a focus on outcomes over activities on a near-term and long-term basis. Whether it’s OKRs or something else, how is your organization proactively communicating a focus on impact and results over tasks and activities? What do you measure? How is it tracked? How is the performance of your people and your teams managed against it? Over what time horizons?

The importance of psychological safety. As you start this journey, be sure to take a close look at psychological safety. If employees don’t feel psychologically safe, it will be nearly impossible for leaders and managers to break through disempowering behaviors like constant escalation, hiding problems or risks, and being afraid to ask questions—no matter how skilled they are as coaches.

Employers should be on the lookout for common problems indicating that significant challenges to psychological safety lurk underneath the surface. Consider asking yourself and your teams questions to test the degree of psychological safety you have cultivated: Do employees have space to bring up concerns or dissent? Do they feel that if they make a mistake it will be held against them? Do they feel they can take risks or ask for help? Do they feel others may undermine them? Do employees feel valued for their unique skills and talents? If the answer to any of these is not a clear-cut “yes,” the organization likely has room for improvement on psychological safety and relatedness as a foundation to high-quality interactions within and between teams.

Information sharing: Fit-for-purpose interactions

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? You spend a significant amount of time in meetings every day but feel like nothing has been accomplished. You jump from one meeting to another and don’t get to think on your own until 7 p.m. You wonder why you need to attend a series of meetings where the same materials are presented over and over again. You’re exhausted.

An increasing number of organizations have begun to realize the urgency of driving ruthless meeting efficiency and of questioning whether meetings are truly required at all to share information. Live interactions can be useful for information sharing, particularly when there is an interpretive lens required to understand the information, when that information is particularly sensitive, or when leaders want to ensure there’s ample time to process it and ask questions. That said, most of us would say that most meetings are not particularly useful and often don’t accomplish their intended objective.

We have observed that many companies are moving to shorter meetings (15 to 30 minutes) rather than the standard default of one-hour meetings in an effort to drive focus and productivity. For example, Netflix launched a redesign effort to drastically improve meeting efficiency, resulting in a tightly controlled meeting protocol. Meetings cannot go beyond 30 minutes. Meetings for one-way information sharing must be canceled in favor of other mechanisms such as a memo, podcast, or vlog. Two-way information sharing during meetings is limited by having attendees review materials in advance, replacing presentations with Q&As. Early data show Netflix has been able to reduce the number of meetings by more than 65 percent, and more than 85 percent of employees favor the approach.

Making meeting time a scarce resource is another strategy organizations are using to improve the quality of information sharing and other types of interactions occurring in a meeting setting. Some companies have implemented no-meeting days. In Japan, Microsoft’s “Work Life Choice Challenge” adopted a four-day workweek, reduced the time employees spend in meetings—and boosted productivity by 40 percent. 1 Bill Chappell, “4-day workweek boosted workers’ productivity by 40%, Microsoft Japan says,” NPR, November 4, 2019, npr.org. Similarly, Shopify uses “No Meeting Wednesdays” to enable employees to devote time to projects they are passionate about and to promote creative thinking. 2 Amy Elisa Jackson, “Feedback & meeting-free Wednesdays: How Shopify beats the competition,” Glassdoor, December 5, 2018, glassdoor.com. And Moveline’s product team dedicates every Tuesday to “Maker Day,” an opportunity to create and solve complex problems without the distraction of meetings. 3 Rebecca Greenfield, “Why your office needs a maker day,” Fast Company , April 17, 2014, fastcompany.com.

Finally, no meeting could be considered well scoped without considering who should participate, as there are real financial and transaction costs to meeting participation. Leaders should treat time spent in meetings as seriously as companies treat financial capital. Every leader in every organization should ask the following questions before attending any meeting: What’s this meeting for? What’s my role? Can I shorten this meeting by limiting live information sharing and focusing on discussion and decision making? We encourage you to excuse yourself from meetings if you don’t have a role in influencing the outcome and to instead get a quick update over email. If you are not essential, the meeting will still be successful (possibly more so!) without your presence. Try it and see what happens.

High-quality, focused interactions can improve productivity, speed, and innovation within any organization—and drive better business performance. We hope the above insights have inspired you to try some new techniques to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of collaboration within your organization.

Aaron De Smet is a senior partner in McKinsey’s New Jersey office; Caitlin Hewes is a consultant in the Atlanta office; Mengwei Luo is an associate partner in the New York office; J.R. Maxwell is a partner in the Washington, DC, office; and Patrick Simon is a partner in the Munich office.

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Why Cross-Functional Collaboration Stalls, and How to Fix It

  • Sharon Cantor Ceurvorst,
  • Kristina LaRocca-Cerrone,
  • Aparajita Mazumdar,

what is problem solving meetings

Research shows that 78% of leaders report “collaboration drag” — too many meetings, too much peer feedback, and too much time spent getting buy-in from stakeholders.

Gartner research shows 78% of organizational leaders report experiencing “collaboration drag” — too many meetings, too much peer feedback, unclear decision-making authority, and too much time spent getting buy-in from stakeholders. This problem is compounded by the fact that companies are running as many as five types of complex initiatives at the same time — each of which could involve five to eight corporate functions and 20 to 35 team members. The sheer breadth of resource commitments across such a range of initiatives creates a basic, pervasive background complexity. To better equip teams to meet the demands of this complexity, Gartner recommends the following strategies: 1) Extend executive alignment practices down to tactical levels; 2) Develop employee strategic and interpersonal skills; and 3) Look for collaboration drag within functions or teams.

Corporate growth is the ultimate team sport, relying on multiple functions’ data, technology, and expertise. This is especially true as technology innovation and AI introduce new revenue streams and business models, which require significant cross-functional collaboration to get off the ground.

  • SC Sharon Cantor Ceurvorst is vice president of research in the Gartner marketing practice , finding new ways of solving B2B and B2C strategic marketing challenges. She sets annual research agendas and harnesses the collective expertise of marketing analysts and research methodologists to generate actionable insights.
  • KL Kristina LaRocca-Cerrone is senior director of advisory in the Gartner marketing practice , overseeing Gartner’s coverage of marketing leadership and strategy, cross-functional collaboration, proving the value of marketing, and marketing innovation and transformation.
  • AM Aparajita Mazumdar is senior research principal in the Gartner marketing practice , co-leading the research agenda for marketing technology.  Her research focuses primarily on marketing strategy and technology topics such as cross-functional collaboration and marketing technology utilization.
  • AN Anja Naski is senior research specialist in the Gartner marketing practice . She edits the Gartner CMO Quarterly journal, highlighting the latest insights on critical challenges facing CMOs. Her research covers topics related to marketing operations, CMO leadership, and cross-functional collaboration.

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The difference between formal and informal meetings

Understanding best practices and which to use when can go a long way to making sure your meetings are highly efficient and productive

By the team at Slack June 12th, 2024

The future of work continues to evolve more than two years after we lurched into global lockdowns. Remote work has largely been successful, according to a 2021 PwC survey , and more than half of employers report that they plan to offer expanded remote options long-term. But we’ve learned a lot since then, especially when it comes to running remote and hybrid teams more smoothly. One of the biggest realizations is that meetings can be a giant waste of time.

Whether your employees work remotely, in-office or both, meetings still have their place. To maximize their effectiveness, it can help to learn the difference between a formal meeting and an informal one and which to use when.

Informal versus formal meetings

A formal meeting is what you likely think of first. There’s a set agenda and a strict protocol. One person typically leads the discussion. There might be rules on who can speak when and for how long. Often a notetaker records minutes, which follow a specific structure and use more formal language.

In a formal meeting, time is usually broken into blocks, with the schedule distributed in advance. For example, the main speakers might talk for 30 minutes each, followed by small-group breakout sessions, with everyone reconvening to discuss the results.

While the structure might be a bit old-fashioned, most formal meetings today rely heavily on modern electronic communication tools .

Examples of formal meetings include, but are not limited to:

  • Board meetings
  • Team or departmental meetings
  • Quarterly reviews
  • Committee meetings
  • Governmental debates

An informal meeting may not look like a traditional meeting at all. It is typically much looser or more flexible. Rather than a conference room or video-conferencing call, it might take place in a break room, an office or even a local bar or restaurant. There are few specific protocols, though the group might agree to certain conventions such as voice votes.

An informal meeting might have a loose plan, but participants typically feel freer to go “off script.” People can generally interject whenever they want, and brainstorming is common. Informal meetings usually happen within a specific time block but might run longer or shorter depending on how things develop.

Examples of informal meetings include, but are not limited to:

  • Training sessions
  • Problem-solving meetings
  • Post–formal meeting discussions
  • Talks on upcoming changes

In essence, a formal meeting has a structured schedule and agenda with set protocols and an official notetaker. An informal meeting has a looser agenda and fewer protocols. In general, formal meetings tend to focus on one or a few key speakers, with attendees playing a more passive role. Informal meetings are often more collaborative discussions, with everyone taking a turn in the spotlight.

Note that weekly team meetings, including project meetings and the like, may be either formal or informal. In most cases, it works best to run them informally. But a formal structure can work best for meetings that largely revolve around presentations. For example, if the development team presents a finalized website layout, it may be best to use formal conventions to keep the meeting on track.

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Pros and cons of each type of meeting

Each type of meeting has its place, but the two are not interchangeable.

Formal meetings

  • Predictability
  • Recorded minutes

Disadvantages:

  • Lack of flexibility
  • Stifled creativity
  • Inability to pivot

Informal meetings

  • Brainstorming
  • Flexibility
  • Lack of structure
  • Unpredictability
  • No formal minutes

Productivity versus innovation

When deciding which meeting type to use, think about your goals for that meeting. In general, formal meetings are best for:

  • Disseminating information
  • Holding recorded votes
  • Featuring guest speakers

Informal meetings are usually best for:

  • Problem-solving
  • Spurring creativity
  • Getting feedback

But what about productivity and innovation? Do they favor one type of meeting over the other? Like so much in life, it depends.

You could argue that formal meetings are better for productivity since they follow a set plan. Informal meetings are often better for innovation since they leave room for interaction and creativity. But if you’re not using the right tools and following the best practices for each type of meeting, both can quickly go off the rails. Likewise, both methods can foster productivity and innovation when used to their maximum potential.

Best practices and tools for each meeting type

So what tools should you use for each type of meeting? And what are some of the best practices? Let’s take a look.

Formal meetings are most effective when you follow certain best practices:

  • Send the agenda to all participants in advance so they know what to expect
  • Set parameters and expectations, from how long each person may speak to how votes are recorded
  • Use an experienced notetaker who knows how to record formal minutes
  • Send out a copy of the minutes and related documents to all participants within a few days after the meeting

Depending on your unique needs, common tools include:

  • Video-conferencing software (be sure to test it ahead of time)
  • Notepads and pens or note-taking software
  • Screen-sharing software
  • Stopwatch or timer

Although they don’t have strict protocols, it’s important to follow best practices when conducting informal meetings to keep them efficient and on track.

  • Loose agenda. Lay out the basics of why you’re meeting and what will be discussed, even if this happens collaboratively at the start of the meeting.
  • Moderator/facilitator/timekeeper. Even in an informal meeting, if there are multiple participants and things to discuss, it’s wise to designate one person to keep things on track. For example, each person might get five minutes to speak. The timekeeper can alert the speaker when their time is almost up.
  • Agreed-upon conventions. If you plan to hold a vote or make decisions, agree at the outset on how this will happen. Will people vote by hand, in writing or in a poll? Does a simple majority make decisions, or does someone have veto power? Taking a few minutes to agree helps avoid disagreements.
  • Note-taking. Informal meetings don’t require formal minutes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a record. Notes provide written documentation for everyone to refer back to later on. Designate someone to take notes or, better yet, conduct your informal meetings via recorded video or chat.

Exactly which tools you need depends on the purpose of your informal meeting. In general, though, you might need such things as:

  • Video-conferencing software (test in advance)
  • Note-taking software or paper and pens
  • Collaboration software, such as a task-sharing platform
  • Document-sharing tools (or physical documents if everyone is in the same room)

Putting it all together

Though the current trend is to reduce the number of meetings overall, it’s impossible to eliminate them. But understanding the different types of meetings, which to use when and the best practices for each can go a long way to making sure your meetings are highly efficient and productive. To make the most of both types of meetings, consider using a highly customizable collaboration platform like Slack.

  • Remote work

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105 Tricky Riddles for Adults (Plus Answers!) to Test Your Knowledge

These brain-teasers range from super easy to downright mind-boggling.

preview for The Best Dad Jokes Of All Time

Math Riddles

Funny riddles, hard riddles.

Ranging from head-scratchingly hard to unbelievably easy, these riddles are just as fun for adults to solve as they are for kids . We even included several that are funny, for when you need a quick laugh, and other math riddles , that will keep your mind sharp and help you learn a little along the way.

Get ready to put your logic and problem solving skills to the test and try your hand at the riddles below.

Be sure to let us know which was your favorite in the comments!

what has a neck but no head a bottle

Easy Riddles

Q: I'm not a blanket, yet I cover the ground; a crystal from heaven that doesn't make a sound. What am I?

A: Snowflake.

Q: I'm sweet and cold with a stick to hold; a treat on a hot day, worth more than gold. What am I?

A: Popsicle.

Q: What has a head but no brain?

A: A lettuce.

Q: Why do cats make good warriors?

A: Because they’ve got 9 lives.

Q: I have a neck, but no head. I have two arms, but no hands. What am I?

A: A shirt.

Q: What word contains 26 letters but only has three syllables?

A: The alphabet.

Q: What comes down but never goes up?

Q: What 5-letter word typed in all capital letters can be read the same upside down?

Q: The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?

A: Footsteps.

Q: David's father has three sons: Snap, Crackle, and _____?

Q: What is more useful when it is broken?

Q: I am easy to lift, but hard to throw. What am I?

A: A feather.

Q: Where do you take a sick boat?

A: To the dock-tor.

Q: Which fish costs the most?

A: A goldfish.

Q: What goes up, but never comes down?

Q: A cowboy rode into town on Friday. He stayed for three nights and rode out on Friday. How is this possible?

A: His horse's name is Friday.

Q: What has a neck but no head?

A: A bottle.

Q: What is full of holes but still holds water?

A: A sponge.

Q: How do you spell COW in thirteen letters?

A: SEE O DOUBLE YOU.

Q: Why is Europe like a frying pan?

A: Because it has Greece at the bottom.

i am an odd number take away a letter and i become even what number am i seven

Q: What do the numbers 11, 69, and 88 all have in common?

A: They all read the same way when placed upside down.

Q: If 2 is company and 3 is a crowd, what are 4 and 5?

Q: I add 5 to 9 and get 2. The answer is correct, so what am I?

A: A clock. When it is 9 a.m., adding 5 hours would make it 2 p.m.

Q: Rachel goes to the supermarket and buys 10 tomatoes. Unfortunately, on the way back home, all but 9 get ruined. How many tomatoes are left in a good condition?

Q: What is 3/7 chicken, 2/3 cat, and 2/4 goat?

A: Chicago!

Q: If a zookeeper had 100 pairs of animals in her zoo, and two pairs of babies are born for each one of the original animals, then (sadly) 23 animals don’t survive, how many animals do you have left in total?

A: 977 animals (100 x 2 = 200; 200 + 800 = 1000; 1000 – 23 = 977)

Q: I saw my math teacher with a piece of graph paper yesterday.

A: I think he must be plotting something.

Q: If you multiply this number by any other number, the answer will always be the same. What number is this?

Q: I am an odd number. Take away a letter and I become even. What number am I?

Q: What 3 numbers give the same result when multiplied and added together?

A: 1, 2, and 3 (1 + 2 + 3 = 6 and 1 x 2 x 3 = 6).

Q: What's a single-digit number with no value?

Q: A tree doubled in height each year until it reached its maximum height over the course of ten years. How many years did it take for the tree to reach half its maximum height?

A: Nine years.

Q: How can you drop a raw egg from a height onto a concrete floor without cracking it?

A: Concrete floors are very hard to crack.

Q: What do you call a bear with no teeth?

A: A gummy bear.

Q: What has many rings but no fingers?

A: A phone.

Q: What can you break without touching it?

A: A promise.

Q: I sometimes run, but I can’t walk. What am I?

Q: It has keys, but no locks. It has space, but no room. You can enter, but can’t go inside. What is it?

A: A keyboard.

Q: I have pointed fangs, and I sit and wait. I have piercing force, and I crunch with weight. I grab my victims, but they do not fight. I join them each with a single, quick bite. What am I?

A: A stapler.

Q: Pronounced as 1 letter, And written with 3, 2 letters there are, and 2 only in me. I’m double, I’m single, I’m black blue, and gray, I’m read from both ends, and the same either way. What am I?

Q: Who has married many women but was never married?

A: The priest.

Q: Forward, I am heavy; backward, I am not. What am I?

Q: What can you hold in your right hand, but never in your left hand?

A: Your left hand.

Q: If two snakes marry, what will their towels say?

A: Hiss and hers.

Q: What does a man do only once in his lifetime, but women do once a year after they are 29?

A: Turn 30.

what has hands but cannot clap a clock

Q: Ask this question all day long, but always get completely different answers, and yet all the answers will be correct. What is the question?

A: What time is it?

Q: What loses its head in the morning but gets it back at night?

A: A pillow.

Q: Four cars come to a four-way stop, each coming from a different direction. They can’t decide who got there first, so they all go forward at the same time. All 4 cars go, but none crash into each other. How is this possible?

A: They all made right-hand turns.

Q: I have a head like a cat and feet like a cat, but I am not a cat. What am I?

A: A kitten.

Q: Who makes it, has no need of it. Who buys it, has no use for it. Who uses it can neither see nor feel it. What is it?

A: A coffin.

Q: What has hands but cannot clap?

A: A clock.

Q: Paul's height is six feet, he's an assistant at a butcher's shop, and wears size 9 shoes. What does he weigh?

Q: What gets broken without being held?

Q: Poor people have it. Rich people need it. If you eat it you die. What is it?

A: Nothing.

Q: What is the longest word in the dictionary?

A: Smiles, because there is a mile between each ‘s’.

Q: Throw away the outside and cook the inside, then eat the outside and throw away the inside. What is it?

A: Corn on the cob.

Q: What is at the end of a rainbow?

A: The letter W!

Q: What kind of tree can you carry in your hand?

Q: They come out at night without being called, and are lost in the day without being stolen. What are they?

Q: What is always in front of you, but can’t be seen?

A: The future.

Q: You’ll find me in Mercury, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus. But never Neptune, or Venus. What am I?

A: The letter “R”.

Q: How many months have 28 days?

A: Every month has 28 days.

Q: I can be cracked, made, told, and played. What am I?

Q: I cannot talk, but I always reply when spoken to. What am I?

A: An echo.

Q: When is the top of a mountain similar to a savings account?

A: When it peaks one’s interest.

Q: A man goes out for a walk during a storm with nothing to protect him from the rain. He doesn’t have a hat, a hood, or an umbrella. But by the end of his walk, there isn’t a single wet hair on his head. Why doesn’t the man have wet hair?

A: He’s bald.

Q: I love to dance, and twist. I shake my tail as I sail away. When I fly wingless into the sky. What am I?

Q: When you stop to look, you can always see me. But if you try to touch me, you can never feel me. Although you walk towards me, I remain the same distance from you. What am I?

A: The horizon.

Q: You see a boat filled with people. It has not sunk. But when you look back, you don’t see a single person on the boat. Why?

A: All the people on board are married.

Q: What is it that no one wants to have, but no one wants to lose either?

A: A lawsuit.

Q: I welcome the day with a show of light, I stealthily came here in the night.I bathe the earthy stuff at dawn, But by noon, alas! I'm gone.

A: The morning dew.

Q: What goes through cities and fields, but never moves?

Q: What can be touched but can't be seen?

A: Someone’s heart.

Q: In a bus, there is a 26-year-old pregnant lady, a 30-year-old policeman, a 52-year-old random woman, and the driver who is 65 years old. Who is the youngest?

A: The baby of the pregnant lady.

Q: When it is alive we sing, when it is dead we clap our hands. What is it?

A: A birthday candle.

Q: What can go through glass without breaking it?

Q: What gets bigger the more you take away?

Q: I have no life, but I can die. What am I?

A: A battery.

Q: What kind of room has no walls, door or windows?

A: A mushroom.

Q: It belongs to you, but your friends use it more. What is it?

A: Your name.

Q: What 2 things can you never eat for breakfast?

A: Lunch and dinner.

Q: I make a loud sound when I’m changing. When I do change, I get bigger but weigh less. What am I?

A: Popcorn.

Q: I’m orange, I wear a green hat and I sound like a parrot. What am I?

A: A carrot.

Q: What runs all around a backyard, yet never moves?

A: A fence.

Q: Take off my skin - I won't cry, but you will! What am I?

A: An onion.

Q: What invention lets you look right through a wall?

A: A window.

Q: What is always on its way but never arrives?

A: Tomorrow.

Q: Two girls were born to the same mother, on the same day, at the same time, in the same month and year, and yet they're not twins. How can this be?

A: The two babies are two of a set of triplets.

Q: What has a bottom at the top?

A: Your legs.

Q: What can you catch but never throw?

Q: What has many teeth but cannot bite?

Q: What has branches, but no fruit, trunk, or leaves?

Q: What thrives when you feed it but dies when you water it?

Q: What do you buy to eat but never consume?

A: Cutlery.

Q: Two fathers and two sons are in a car, yet there are only three people in the car. How?

A: They are grandfather, father, and son.

Q: A bus driver goes the wrong way down a one-way street. He passes the cops, but they don’t stop him. Why?

A: He was walking.

Q: If an electric train is traveling south, then which way is the smoke going?

A: There is no smoke—it's an electric train.

Q: Where is the only place where today comes before yesterday?

A: The dictionary.

Q: What can you put in a bucket to make it weigh less?

Q: How can kids drink beer and not get drunk?

A: By sticking to root beer.

Q: What is black when it’s clean and white when it’s dirty?

A: A chalkboard.

Q: I have one eye but am unable to see. What am I?

A: A needle.

Q: What two keys can’t open any door?

A: A monkey and a donkey.

Q: A man and his boss have the same parents but are not siblings. How is this possible?

A: He’s self-employed.

Headshot of Cameron Jenkins

Cameron (she/her) is a staff writer for Good Housekeeping , where she covers everything from holidays to food. She is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she received a B.A. in magazine journalism. In her spare-time she can be found scrolling TikTok for the latest cleaning hacks and restaurant openings, binge-watching seasons of Project Runway or online shopping.

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what is problem solving meetings

At the bottom of the V is the time to gather and analyze the system in its entirety and to reassemble it into a new and coherent whole on the right side of the V. That whole is intentionally more capable, efficient, and resilient than what had existed before. The new system answers the mail for all the requirements, identifies all the interfaces and dependencies among the elements of the solution, and optimizes all the trade-offs. The integrated solution is thoroughly tested coming up the right side of the V.

Along the way, importantly, risk is retired, and margin is built up. What I mean by margin is the margin for error. The idea is that if something small goes wrong — in a deal, for example, if part of the analysis fails or something has been missed; or in a complex piece of litigation, if a witness’s testimony comes out the wrong way on a particular day — the margin for error is great enough that the system as a whole does not fail. Over several decades, I have found this to be a highly effective model of problem-solving in complex matters of law, regulation, and business.

Utilizing the V model approach during M&A due diligence

The V model can be a useful tool for demonstrating how systems engineering works in the in the legal field, for instance, starting with M&A. Often, lawyers work to close any disconnects between the various due diligence work streams arising from a potential M&A transaction. In a complex corporate transaction, responsibilities are broken down and actions assigned to separate teams for different diligence areas, including, for example, business development, finance, HR, intellectual property, and technology.

One of the ways that M&A deals can get off track is for those diligence streams to proceed in a disconnected or incoherent way. For that reason, it is important in managing a big deal to bring the teams together and make sure they are staying connected, so that all key interrelationships and patterns are identified.

Another example is identifying relationships between due diligence issues and findings and making an assessment of the target’s leadership. Observing a pattern in which a particular area is going errant repeatedly, it must be assessed whether the leaders for the target company in that area are really the right people to lead the business, post-acquisition.

A third M&A example is identifying the interfaces between the due diligence findings and deal negotiations. The terms and conditions, ideally, are going to be negotiated based on what the findings are during the diligence process. Sometimes they get disconnected. However, if diligence is tightly coordinated with the negotiation of terms and conditions, a better negotiation process emerges among those on the other side of the deal — company management and the company’s own board — resulting in a better set of deal documents.

Demonstrating systems engineering discipline in complex litigation

Another legal context in which to demonstrate the value of the V model is in complex litigation. Doing up-front legal analysis early is critical to understanding exactly what ultimately will be needed in order to prevail — whether that be a motion for summary judgment as a defendant, or in preparation for a trial — all before discovery is entered.

This is part of classic systems engineering, going down the left side of the V to understand all the requirements and what the objectives are before developing a solution. In civil litigation, which is what companies are predominantly involved in, this is typically done through discovery. Systems engineering is a good way of thinking about how to coordinate both defensive and offensive discovery — that is to say, what facts need to be extracted from the other side. It is perilous to assume in civil litigation that the case can be proved through something potentially received from the other side, so this must be undertaken with care.

Leveraging systems engineering in the anatomy of legal matters is a highly effective way of managing problem-solving. It tends to be most helpful in solving complex, interdependent, often technical problems; often over a longer-term time period, such as that involving major litigation or M&A deals.

Under this discipline, leaders need to bring their teams along to obtain optimal results. As a by-product of solving particular challenges, leaders will be building consensus, resilience, and ultimately common purpose within their organization.

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what is problem solving meetings

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  3. How to Run a Problem-Solving Meeting [+ Free Template]

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  4. How to Run an Effective Problem-Solving Meeting

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  5. 22 Problem Solving Meeting Template Presentation Layouts PPT

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  6. Solving the Problem with Problem-Solving Meetings

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  1. Short Masterclass in Critical Thinking: JK Rowling Edition!

  2. Meeting Minutes in Team-Initiated Problem Solving

  3. Maximum Meetings in One Room

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  5. POV : Appraisal Meeting vs Problem Solving Meeting

  6. There must be a commitment to effectiveness, rather than a fight for who's right and who's wrong

COMMENTS

  1. How to Run a Problem-Solving Meeting

    Problem-solving meetings are beneficial for any employee, with any size of issue. Whether there's a one-off problem that just needs a bit of brainstorming time for a solution, or a troublesome employee causing recurring issues, the basics of the problem-solving meeting still apply. It's a useful approach for any case scenario where ...

  2. Lead an Effective Problem-Solving Meeting

    Lead an Effective Problem-Solving Meeting. There's nothing worse than getting a group of smart people together to solve a problem and having the discussion devolve into chaos. This usually ...

  3. What is a Problem Solving Meeting?

    How to Run an Urgent Problem Solving Meeting Elise Keith - This meeting agenda template helps a team find short-term tactical solutions to an urgent problem. The conversation includes time to gain a shared understanding of the problem, but focuses primarily on listing and evaluating possible solutions and the creation of a short- term action plan.

  4. How to Run an Effective Problem-Solving Meeting? [+Free Agenda]

    Start the meeting and explain its purpose. 5 Minutes. Meeting Leader. Problem Overview. Provide a concise description of the problem to ensure everyone is on the same page. 5 Minutes. Meeting Leader. Identify Problem. Define the problem clearly and get input.

  5. Problem Solving Meetings

    Problem Solving Meetings are oriented around solving either a specific or general problem, and are perhaps the most complex and varied type of meetings. Whether the meeting is addressing an identified problem, or it is focusing on creating strategies and plans to navigate the future, there are a rich arsenal of group processes that can be used. ...

  6. What is a Problem Solving Meeting?

    Teams use Problem Solving Meetings to analyze a situation and its causes, assess what direction to take, then create an action plan to resolve the problem. You can find an introduction to Problem Solving Meetings in Chapter 25 of our book, Where the Action Is . You may also want to visit the Learn More link, below, for resources to help you ...

  7. Tips for Running Effective Problem-Solving Meetings

    Problem-solving meetings can take stronger facilitation. Preparing for and running an effective problem-solving meeting would include first creating and distributing an agenda and any supporting information. This enables the team to come prepared (and let those invited know that you expect this preparation). Let's take a look at example agenda ...

  8. Solving the Problem with Problem-Solving Meetings

    Facilitating productive problem-solving meetings can be challenging. You want to foster an open dialogue and gain buy-in while working toward an ideal solution. To do this effectively, it helps to understand one very important aspect of human nature: how we reason. A Tool for Better Group Reasoning

  9. How to Make Problem-Solving Meetings Productive

    1 Identify the problem. Before you start any problem-solving meeting or discussion, make sure you have a clear and specific definition of the problem you are trying to solve. A vague or broad ...

  10. How to Conduct a Problem Solving Meeting + Free Agenda

    A problem-solving meeting is a gathering of individuals or teams aimed at identifying, analysing, and finding solutions to specific challenges or issues. This could be business-wide or focused on a specific project. The purpose of such meetings is to collectively address problems, generate ideas, and make decisions to resolve the identified issues.

  11. Problem Solving Meeting Agenda: 4 Effective Steps to Conduct a Problem

    4-Step Process for a Problem Solving Meeting Agenda with This Problem-Solving Session Template (or Agenda). Step One: List and brainstorm every potential cause for the problem or challenge. We want to make sure that we solve any structural issues first. These might be open sales positions, known bugs in the software, issues with a supplier ...

  12. What is Problem Solving? Steps, Process & Techniques

    1. Define the problem. Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes.. The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps.

  13. How to Run Productive and Inclusive Problem-Solving Meetings

    6 Follow up on the actions. The final step of running a problem-solving meeting is to follow up on the actions that you agreed on during the meeting. You should assign clear roles and ...

  14. A Complete Guide: Planning a Problem Solving Meeting

    The goal of a problem solving meeting is to discuss solutions to a problem only after all participants fully agree on the definition of that problem. Everyone attending the meeting should be a part of a group responsible for identifying and correcting the problem. In a decision making meeting, the group is already presented with a solution (s ...

  15. How to Use Meetings for Problem-Solving: A Supervisor's Guide

    5. Assign roles and responsibilities. Be the first to add your personal experience. 6. Evaluate and follow up. 7. Here's what else to consider. Meetings are often seen as a waste of time, but ...

  16. 7 Types of Meetings (and How to Make the Most of Your Time)

    2. Problem-solving meetings . The main goal of a problem-solving meeting is to find the optimal solution to an issue facing the organization. And when it comes to finding the best course of action, two heads (or a few in this case) are better than one.

  17. How to Run an Urgent Problem Solving Meeting

    1. Situation Report. Ideally, everyone will read the data about the problem before the meeting. Use this first agenda item to ask and answer questions, and make sure everyone fully understands the situation. Ask everyone to wait to share ideas about solutions for the moment; focus solely on understanding the problem. 2.

  18. How to Run an Effective and Engaging Problem Solving Session

    At the start of the meeting, set the stage by reiterating these intentions. Being clear about the meeting's purpose will help the team feel more open towards discussion the situation. Step 2.

  19. Seven Best Practices for Problem-Solving Meetings

    Meet at the same time on the same day, even if the group leader can't be there. And never, ever meet for more than two hours at a time. Enforce that limit, because brains fry. Get the Right People in the Room: The problems a group will be working on should dictate group membership (never more than 15 people; more voices than that become ...

  20. The Secret Sauce In The Best Problem-Solving Meetings

    Problem-solving, joint sense-making, or curated co-creation. The Secret Sauce. 1. Keep focus on helping someone outside the meeting. Pick your cliché, analogy or song. "The enemy of my enemy is ...

  21. How to have a more productive team meeting (that staff and managers

    A problem solving meeting can be a great place to employ out-of-the-box techniques and exercises, consider problems from new angles, and create change in an organization. Your problem solving meeting might even be focused on first clearly identifying and defining a problem with data, or creating a strategy to deal with problems that you expect ...

  22. 13 Meeting Challenges and How to Overcome Them

    11 Poor communication between meeting attendees. Challenge: It's fair to say that not everyone will have the same approach to brainstorming, solving issues, or communicating. However, not aligning on the meeting purpose and schedule is an issue that's harder to get around, and this can completely slow productivity.

  23. The 16 Types of Business Meetings (and Why They Matter)

    Problem solving meetings follow this basic structure, which can be heavily ritualized in first responder and other teams devoted to quickly solving problems. These strict governing procedures get looser when problems aren't so urgent, but the basic pattern remains. In a problem solving meeting, the ugly surprise already happened.

  24. Meeting Norms 101: Key Strategies for Productive Meetings

    In a decision-making meeting, the leader might present the options, facilitate a discussion on the pros and cons of each, and then guide the group through a consensus-building process, such as a show of hands or a voting system. 7. Problem-Solving Meetings. Problem-solving meetings aim to identify issues and develop solutions. Key norms include:

  25. For New Ideas, Think Inside (This) Box

    Make sure you are solving a problem. Don't solve for how to implement a solution. A classic example involved a design team brought in to figure out how to increase access to incubators. The ...

  26. If we're so busy, why isn't anything getting done?

    With endless meetings, incessant emails, and casts of thousands, companies have mastered the art of unnecessary interactions. ... (OKRs) and common problem statements—to foster an agile way of working across the enterprise that focuses innovative organizational energy on the most important topics. Not all companies can do this, and some will ...

  27. Why Cross-Functional Collaboration Stalls, and How to Fix It

    Gartner research shows 78% of organizational leaders report experiencing "collaboration drag" — too many meetings, too much peer feedback, unclear decision-making authority, and too much ...

  28. The difference between formal and informal meetings

    Problem-solving meetings; Post-formal meeting discussions; Talks on upcoming changes; In essence, a formal meeting has a structured schedule and agenda with set protocols and an official notetaker. An informal meeting has a looser agenda and fewer protocols. In general, formal meetings tend to focus on one or a few key speakers, with ...

  29. 105 Best Riddles for Adults (with Answers): Easy, Clever and Hard

    Easy Riddles. Q: I'm not a blanket, yet I cover the ground; a crystal from heaven that doesn't make a sound. What am I? A: Snowflake. Q: I'm sweet and cold with a stick to hold; a treat on a hot ...

  30. How to apply systems engineering in legal problem-solving

    Over several decades, I have found this to be a highly effective model of problem-solving in complex matters of law, regulation, and business. Utilizing the V model approach during M&A due diligence . The V model can be a useful tool for demonstrating how systems engineering works in the in the legal field, for instance, starting with M&A.