As I sit in the lobby of a New Jersey hotel (family asleep in the room above), my state of mind is about as far away as it can be from our companies’ annual planning meeting in Ottawa tomorrow. Employees and key contractors are on the way from Nova Scotia, St. Catharines and Durham, NC to gather with Ottawa staff for the two-day session in the rented Ottawa Construction Association boardroom.
We have an agenda. There are scheduling challenges as one key employee can only attend in person for one day. Unlike earlier years in the meeting process, we don’t have external facilitators or guests/visitors or speakers.
I’ll be remiss to say that my mind is “in” this meeting right now. I’ve been away from home for almost a week and the places I’m at (have been) are quite distant emotionally and intellectually from the meeting framework. As well, the underlying issues/challenges affecting the business — the combination of organizational structure, staff, finances, and the external environment of changing technology and pricing challenges in bridging new and old media seem no closer to solution than they were before this event.
Then why have the meeting and incur the not-insignificant expenses of travel and time to put it together?
The answer, learned from a consultant who helped us develop the meeting concept, is that successful businesses need some structures and traditions and the annual meeting, a more modest mid-year review and a system of weekly regular general and sales meetings provide the framework for cohesion, policy development and interpretation, and ultimately some degree of growth and stability for the business.
We certainly have avoided the excessive meeting time trap. The routine weekly meetings have been requiring no more than about 90 minutes of time overall at most (in two maximum one hour blocks). Previous general planning meetings have resulted in significant evolutions and innovations as well as has allowed us to put faces and names together, resolving a challenge for a geographically dispersed business.
So, I’ll return home late tonight, unpack, visit my office briefly to gather materials, and be ready to lead the meeting downtown tomorrow.