May 1, 2012

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In the Loop

Are Your Company’s Lines of Communication Working?

Heather Stewart

May 1, 2012

A well-oiled communication process enables USANA to keep growing and expanding into new markets. “We’re very strategic, we’re very clear on what we do, and by keeping employees in the loop, the communication throughout the building is seamless,” says Macuga. 

Out-of-the-Box Meetings
Too often, company meetings are not only unproductive—they are simply a waste of time for everyone involved. Status updates are provided for projects that don’t impact the meeting participants, or someone highjacks the meeting with long detours into personal agenda items. “It just goes on and on and on, and nobody’s listening and it’s a waste of time,” says Pollyanna Pixton, co-founder of the leadership consultant firm Accelinnova.

Pixton has several suggestions for meetings that encourage concise, productive collaboration:

Sticky-note Exercise. This exercise works to take the ego and emotion out of discussing tough business issues and problems. For the meeting, gather all the stakeholders involved in the issue—no matter their rank within the company hierarchy. Then have everyone write down their proposed solutions on sticky notes, which are then placed on the whiteboard. “Everyone discusses and votes on the ideas, ranks them based on business value,” says Pixton. “You remove the emotion, the personal investment, and talk about what’s of value to the customer.”

Daily Stand-up Meetings. These are quick meetings that help teams check in with each other. “You have to make sure it never goes longer than 15 minutes. You have to time it,” says Pixton.  “And you ask just three questions: What did you do yesterday, what are you doing today and what’s getting in the way of completing your work? You never solve the problem there; you write it down and somebody’s in charge of following up on those barriers…you’ll never believe what happens in those 15 minutes each day.”

Time Box Meetings. In this type of meeting, the organizer issues a set agenda and each topic is given a specific start time. This way, people can pick and choose which portions of the meeting to attend, avoiding wasted time sitting through discussions that don’t apply to them. A time box meeting only works if attendees are committed to adhering to the strict schedule—and to arriving on time.

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