xxxxx) 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

In change you need to be an opportunist and use any unplanned encounter with staff during daily operations to your advantage, ie communicate at every encounter. Traditionally it was thought that formal conversations in the office were unproductive. However it has been found

"...Cohesion of one group, or 'tribe', as a central predictor of productivity (where cohesion is defined by how connected work friends are with one another, outside connected to personal networks......Much of the important information that determines how productive at work we are is found with informal conversation around the office. We find out how to be 'successful' in our jobs here. Beyond productivity, we can also increase our influence..."
Alex Pentland as quoted by Rebecca Newton, 2019

Informal or casual conversations can occur almost anywhere like at the copy machine, coffee machine, water cooler, elevator, during breaks for meals, before and after meetings, social occasions, commuting to and from work, etc. There are unlimited places to have casual conversations.  There are basically 3 ways an informal conversation can increase your influence:

i) increase general organisational knowledge like others' goals, challenges, resources, personalities, what's happening elsewhere in the organisation, etc

ii) build deeper relationships and build trust, ie
"...relationship building is crucial to successfully garnering support for new initiatives. As we strengthen relationships, we are able to build trust, and is increases in our ability to influence others..."
Rebecca Newton, 2019

The more trust you build, the more support you get.

iii) prepare for regular, unexpected, unplanned, brief, casual conversation and encounters, ie go beyond social, personal chitchat to work related issues by taking advantage of inevitable generic questions by being ready with one or two key messages in a couple of sentences; need to be articulate about what you are doing and succinct about why it matters

NB
"...sometimes just a couple of powerful open or focused questions can lead you to a much better understanding of another person or a particular situation..."
Rebecca Newton, 2019

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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