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Try A New Kind Of Team Meeting Called A ‘No Homework Meeting’

Posted by | April 20, 2015 | Change, Workplace

Via Forbes : Think about how project meetings typically happen: first, you get your people gathered together. This can take place in a physical room, a virtual room, or you can have a bit of both going on. Then everyone spends some time talking about the project, or report, or whatever the stated achievement of the meeting was. In the last portion of the meeting, folks either volunteer to do some part of the work or it gets assigned to them. After that, everyone goes off on their own and completes their piece of the pie. Project completed.

Folks on the team TISI -1.63% may never see the work done by the other people in that meeting and, depending on the project, some folks may never even see the final product. It’s the way we’ve done it for years, and while a lot of Gen Xers and Boomers may not have liked it, they accepted it. Sadly, it resembles high school for many of us: learn some stuff in class, get a homework assignment, go home and do the assignment, turn it in the next day, and then start learning a different set of stuff.

Enter Millennials into the workplace. Their love of community and collaboration is impacting how we work, including how we run our meetings. Their collaborative style has led to a new kind of meeting called a ‘No Homework Meeting.’ They’re a fun and productive way to get discrete projects done while nurturing the attitudes of teamwork and innovation that so many companies want. Here’s how it works.

Instead of coming into the meeting, discussing the work at a high level and then dividing up the work to be done solo, in a No Homework Meeting everyone actually comes into the room with the intention of completing the project, right there, together.

Let’s say you’re working on a big proposal for revamping some of the technology in your company. With the old way, you’d come together, discuss the technology, and then everyone would take a piece of the work and go back to their desk to do their ‘homework.’ But with a No Homework Meeting, you all sit there together and work on the proposal until it’s done. Someone says “OK, here’s line one,” and someone else says, “Great, here’s line two,” and someone else says “I think we should change this paragraph, pricing, deadline date,” whatever it is. Everyone rolls up their sleeves and works together until the project is done. And no one has to go back to their desk and do homework, because there is no homework.

If you have Millennial children, you’ll recognize that this is how they often use technology to collaboratively get their homework done. They’re on their cell or video chatting with a few of their friends, while everyone is looking at the homework assignment online.

But notwithstanding that this is a very Millennial way to work, even Boomers and Xers (like me) have already experienced this style of meeting. Imagine that you’re part of a group that’s going to give a presentation at a conference in an hour. But you’ve just learned that one of the topics you planned to discuss now has to be deleted. What would you do? Of course, you’d gather the team, someone would open their laptop with the presentation and you’d sit together tweaking slides until it was time to go on stage. There wouldn’t be any individual work, you’d all be huddled around a laptop, sleeves rolled-up, fixing the deck. You’d hate the fact that you were being rushed, but otherwise it would be highly productive and collaborative. And that’s basically how a No Homework Meeting operates (minus the panicky rushed feeling).

There are loads of new technologies that can make No Homework Teams even more productive and fun (who said work can’t be fun?). One example is Google GOOGL -1.92% Docs, which allows for real-time simultaneous editing of a document. The team can work on the same document, at the same time, anywhere on the globe, from up to 50 computers. So 10 people can be around the world working on this document and they can watch each other creating new content, deleting, moving content around and formatting. Microsoft MSFT -1.28% also has an alternative that does the same basic thing. There are lots of technologies that allow simultaneously collaboration and a lot of them are free and really easy to use. (Here’s a list of collaboration applications)

But what do employees think of No Homework Meetings? Well, we already know that most Millennials are going to love this. But let’s take a look at some feedback from some Boomers and Gen Xers I recently surveyed who experienced a No Homework Meeting:

From a technology company: “We were huddled in a room with a big whiteboard walking through the project step by step. I went home that day thinking how much fun it was to work with great people in a dynamic, free-flowing, brainstorming way. I recognized how well we worked together and complemented each other with our different styles and approaches. We all applied experience from our past. We all respected the ideas of the others. We knew we had a deadline and we stayed with the task at hand until it was completed. Together, we created a giant success.”

From a manufacturing plant: “We all held each other accountable and no stone was left unturned. It was amazing what we accomplished in such little time and we ran ourselves with hardly any supervision. We all knew our duties and what needed to be done to be successful. We helped each other without even being asked.”

From a medical group: “Our No Homework Team worked on a media communications project. We had web editors, folks from marketing and people from the innovations team present both in person and online. It was energizing and fun. The collaborative atmosphere was helpful in understanding the organization’s point of view and marketing goals. The sharing of ideas and the final execution done in meeting made for a much better product than any one person could have developed. It was a great experience to be part of.”

Now, I’m not suggesting you make every meeting a No Homework Meeting. But once a month, give it a try. Observe the ways it changes how your employees connect with the organization and the innovative ways they interact with their peers.

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