Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…

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customers-firstIn May we hosted the first Rocket President’s Advisory Council (RPAC) meeting in our headquarters near Boston. A small group of ten customers from around the world joined me and other Rocket leaders to help shape the future of our company. And one of the most refreshing aspects of the meeting was that no one was staring at a screen and reading bullet points on a slide…because we didn’t have any.

We all attend too many meetings. And none of us have enough time in our calendars. Because our time is so precious and valuable, how can we make the time we spend in meetings as productive as possible? I think about this problem every day.

So I decided to try something new based on what we did at our RPAC meeting. Starting this quarter, I am using a different formula for my meetings—both internal and external meetings. I wanted get away from that standard and expected format where everyone sits around a table and stares at a screen of scrolling PowerPoint bullets. So I’ve decided that there would be no technology in the room – and sometimes not even a table. What I’m trying to create is the time and space for people and ideas. That’s it, just people and ideas.

What I’ve observed is increased engagement and participation from everyone in the room.  I’m also observing better outcomes! When there is no screen (and no table) people more naturally connect with each other and collaborate with each other.

You might want to try this yourself. Here are some hints and tips that you will find useful:

  • Instead of a formal agenda, place some big ideas on big pages placed around the room and use those as conversation starters.
  • Create a compelling storyline and support that with pictures (not bullet points).
  • Create an agenda based on what is important to the attendees.
  • Trust the process; the lack of a formal structure will be the catalyst for real collaboration and frank discussion on topics that would probably never have come up in a more traditional setting.
  • Walk that fine line between maintaining order while at the same time giving everyone an opportunity to help drive the course of the meeting.

I hope you experience what I have experienced. I hope you find that everyone feels included from the first moments and you are able to “crowdsource” some amazing ideas that would not have come up in a more traditional meeting format. I hope you can collaborate better and accomplish more.

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Andy Youniss co-founded Rocket Software in 1990 and continues to be the company's main driving force. Andy successfully established and actively manages Rocket's largest OEM partnerships and is guiding the company's growth through technology investments, acquisitions, new product lines, and strategic partnerships. Prior to founding Rocket Software, Andy was the development manager for DB View Inc., a software company specializing in DB2 database tools. Previously, he was a programmer/analyst at American Management Systems, and was also a project development consultant. Andy holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

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