Potentially Revolutionary ISD Capstone Project Creates Objectives and Assessments to Quantify If Your Meetings Succeed or Fail
On average, you may spend nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, according to the Harvard Business Review (“Stop the Meeting Madness”).
How will you know if your meetings succeed or fail? With so much at stake, the success or failure of so many meetings can decide your success or failure as well as your organization.
That was the premise of Chu Cheng Yu’s ISD 503 Capstone Project, titled “Objective Oriented Meeting,” on behalf of Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL). AFRL, which leads the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for the United States air, space, and cyberspace forces, is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, with locations in 10 States: California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Yu, who graduated from Systems Engineering + Design in summer 2023, understands meetings serve an important role: exchange of information and knowledge, critical discussions, and important decision making. Yu also understands document-style meeting notes do not directly address the success or failure of meetings and are hard to assess and quantify.
How Do We Actually Know If Meeting Objectives Are Being Met?
Yu’s ISD Capstone project goal was simple: Create a method, establish processes, and set templates. Based on research, Yu created Objective Oriented Meetings (OOM), which establishes quality control through objectives and assessments.
“OOM accomplishes that by modifying existing meeting structure and requiring objectives to be attached to each meeting agenda,” Yu writes in his report.
Objectives are presented at the start of a meeting, while at the conclusion of the meeting responses are collected to address if the objectives are met. The responses, as well as agreement or disagreement between meeting attendees and meeting host(s), will be used as quality control standards, depending on the type of agenda and/or objective.
Without objectives attached to agendas, when someone asks, “How did the meeting go,” there is no way to quantify a response. With categorized objectives, responses are not only easy to capture, but they can also be captured with a standardized form.
As a bonus, Yu writes, coupling agenda and objectives together forms an Agenda-Objective-Pair (AOP), which is a perfect identifier for both meeting minutes and action items and allows transformation of meeting artifacts from lines in a document to entries in a database.
“Project leaders see the value of having meeting minutes as a searchable database vs. a plain document file,” he writes.
Method of Choice
To create a method for how a meeting should be prepared, hosted, responses collected, and results posted, Yu identified these common elements:
- Updated Meeting methods
- Excel template for artifact generation
- Data structure for output data ingestion
- Objective categories for creation of AOP
- Response form for in-person, and online response collection
- Sample Definition for meeting success/failure for a sample series of meetings
- Plan for how data can be used to create the next stage(s) of digital transformation
“The approach for the project is to build on the current foundation of meeting structures and add more intent and structure,” he writes.
A New Meeting Standard
After attending multiple types of meetings and holding discussions with meeting hosts and attendees, Yu created a common set of objectives and tested them with more than 100 unique agenda items.
As a result, 12 standard objectives were agreed upon spanning four categories with each category hosting three objectives:
- Prep for Discussion/Decision
- Prep for Decision
- Future meeting
- After meeting
- During meeting
- Future meeting
- After meeting
“One benefit is a neutral unique identifier in the sense of data entry,” Yu writes. “In classical meeting artifacts, information is difficult to retrieve since they are often in a word style document. It requires reading and understanding before such information can be retrieved. This is where OOM Meeting artifacts shine. They transform document-based artifacts into database entry, enabling database operations to locate information without the need to read through hundreds of lines of text. It accomplishes that by using AOP as the identifier and the content of meeting minutes becomes attached to the AOP and creating a data entry.”
In summary, according to Yu, the use of the meeting method greatly improves the quality of the meeting and closes the gap between expert and average meeting hosts by explicitly attaching objectives to each agenda. With clear and concise objectives, meeting results can be collected and quality control can be set. This allows expectations to be set and checked for a critical part of the organization.
“More work is required to show senior leadership value in this effort, and push it to be an organizational standard going forward,” he writes.