Gaining Perspective

Are there times when you feel you are just trapped in the weeds? You have strategic and operational meetings on the calendar but do they seem to be taken up by things like formal project reviews that your team knows are coming but treat as if they were surprises? Does it seem like your calendar does not allow room to think?

Let’s call this calendar creep, a condition where issues that seem to increasingly occupy your calendar. Leaders caught in calendar creep may begin to feel claustrophobic. It is hard to maintain an executive perspective when it seems like you are running from meeting to meeting getting a thin slice of reality at each place and then being expected to decide in a sixty minute meeting what the team calling the meeting has been studying for days.

Perhaps it is time to build some buckets to throw those issues into. Calendar mapping involves determining the roles meetings play in the operations of the organization and then planning out the routine calendar of meetings for the year.

As an example, you may have the following needs as a leader:

·      Work with the Board of Directors

·      Manage the Executive Team

·      Ensure project portfolio stays on track

·      Coach and develop your people

·      Maintain control of the budget

·      Maintain the organization’s role in the community

These are your major buckets. The buckets can be mapped out for the year and you can assign roles to each meeting. For instance, if you have a board meeting four times a year, decide in advance what the major themes will be for each meeting. Determine what outcomes you need from each meeting (and what outcomes you do not want the board involved in). Prepare draft agendas ahead of time.

The same holds true for your executive team. What are the major high level meetings your team needs to have to accomplish your goals? What kind of routine meetings do you have? If there are certain areas such as portfolio or talent management that have enough unique deliverables assign them their own part of the map.

Once your map is complete it can be calendared. Each meeting can have a draft agenda prepared. When folks try to schedule meetings for individual issues, check to see if they can be accommodated in one of the scheduled meetings. This ensures that topics that can be planned for in advance such as budget management don’t take up the scheduled operational or strategic meetings. 

Now you have places to put major and minor issues. Got a project update? Handle it in the formal project review. CFO needs a decision on some budget issues? Let’s discuss it in the next operational meeting so the whole executive team knows the decision.

No single view can capture the operation of an organization. Like all models this one is flawed. But even with flaws you may find it useful.

Joe Thompson

© 2017 Differentiating Strategies, LLC