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Executive Summary: 

There's two types of meetings that I hold in Operations and this seemed too good not to share. You're either "making sausage" or asking the boss which direction to go on a decision.

This might be a highly internal meme that the military is circulating, but this hit me exactly in how to develop a leader. If you're familiar with the Military Decision Making Process(MDMP) it lays out how to develop courses of actions for tactical through strategic leaders. The entire process is several more in depth steps but it all boils down to these two things.

This, in brief is the shortest distillation of what the MDMP loop is.

Right now, we hold two types of meetings.

(1) Planning and Course of Action Development 

A Meeting where we as a staff or group develop several courses of actions and recommendations. There's a lot of back and forth and we come up with something to present to the boss/commander or whoever is making a decision. We call this one "sausage-making" (apologies to vegans, vegetarians and anyone grossed out by this).

(2) Decision Brief

 A decision brief where the boss/commander is presented with different courses of action, information and the staffs recommendation. Note that generally a commander in the military is someone who has served in a staff or subsidiary position for several years after completing college and several professional military schools. 

How you can use this in your organization

If you're trying to hold a meeting and you're not sure the purpose of the meeting, ask the question. Are we making a decision during this meeting or just going over options? That will drive it. 

If you're not trying to get everyone together so you're not missing out on input, then perhaps this can be an email. If you just need a bit more information you don't need to pull everyone in.

Onerous requirements from higher echelons of the Army that take up too much training time drove this, as units were having to deal with dozens of competing requirements. If you're at the higher echelon of your organization and you can take more off the "guy on the street" while still having a functional mission, then I would call that a win.

Also I stole the image from the forums norms as it seemed fitting.




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Some pushback on this:

I think this is a limited model for understanding meetings. (Citing from the handbook of meeting science) there are different cognitive processes taking place during meetings (usually several in one meeting):

  • Problem identification and construction
  • Information exchange/information sharing
  • Idea generation and brainstorming
  • Idea evaluation and selection
  • Implementation planning

When I conduct meetings as a project manager (or participate in team meetings) I rarely have a clear "decision brief meeting" or a "planning and course of action development". All of these may take place in one meeting depending on the scope of the decision(s) to be made. If a decision is consequential enough I can understand the need for fragmenting these processes into different meetings.

Additionally, other processes take place that are worth highlighting:

  • Trust and psychological safety
  • Support for innovation
  • Conflict

I think the main takeaway from your post would be for readers to highlight the purposes that the meetings they plan serve and approach meeting planning with more intention.

Thanks for this. This comes from a relatively top down (but locally administered) org structure which may not reflect exactly on other organizations. 

We do have a structure that the commanders/decision makers may not always be present when we discuss things due to them needing to speak to higher echelons or other commitments and this may not reflect outside of a governmental structure.

I'm adding the handbook to my reading list, though and hope to update this when I do. (Rough that it costs so much though!)

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