Informal Meetings

Managers not realizing the importance of the informal, one-on-one meetings, such as the corridor meetings, walking through the store/factory/branch, etc and chatting to staff, yarning over a cup of tea or coffee, etc. In these brief, informal, one-on-one meetings, management will learn more about what works and does not, and what is happening in the organisation than from hours of formal meetings in meeting rooms, written reports, etc.. So when you run into a staff member in the corridor/lift/car park, etc have a chat and ask how things are going; don't just say hello and move on.

"Bump factor"refers to informal meetings like discussions in staff cafe; the banter in the locker space; the collaboration in the open-plan office; at neighbouring desks; on stools in the kitchen; chance meetings in the office corridors, on streets, social occasions, etc.

"...it's the hundreds of unplanned moments you might have each day when you bump into people and collaborate - it really strengthens the fabric of an organisation..."

Pip Marlow as quoted by Will Glasgow, 2013

Getting people to meet informally over food and drinks works better than all the reviews, funding and tax incentives. To be effective, it must be an organic approach; it cannot be imposed from above, eg senior management, etc or outside, eg government, bureaucracy, etc

Two examples of the power of informal meetings

- a key player in a court case (1980s) against 2 of the largest corporations in Australian agribusiness used an informal meeting very successfully. Traditionally, the Australian legal system forces clients to follow a set communication path, ie to go through a lawyer who would then approach a barrister, who would then approach a Queen's Counsel (QC); with any decisions from the QC coming back via the barrister and then the lawyer to the client. This is an expensive process with following daily fees charged, ie lawyer (A$2,000), barrister (A$4,000) and QC (A$10,000). In this system, there is little chance of a client going direct to the QC. By chance the key player met the QC in a street and they agreed to have a cup of coffee together. During this cup of coffee the discussion centred on the court case and many issues were raised and solved. Needless to say, both the lawyer and barrister were not impressed at being bypassed and missing out on their fees!!!!!

- a proposal was put to a senior management committee of a university. Basically this committee rejected that proposal. Later on one of the key players presenting the proposal met the key decision-maker by chance in the university grounds. They had a brief discussion which resulted in the proposal being accepted.

 

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