Productive Meeting Culture with Facts, Opinions, and Experience (FOE) System

Meetings are important. Period. Why?

  • It solicits the best ideas and provokes discussion on prioritization of those ideas

Even more importantly, it fosters:

  • Sense of belonging — participants feel consulted on and heard
  • Alignment — participants whose ideas are turned down receive meaningful feedback, and get behind consensus
  • Transparency — participants understand what is happening within the company, and why

There are many best practices of meetings, and they are simple to understand but yet difficult to execute. The reasons:

  • Politics
  • Conflicts

I believe we can ameliorate these issues by practicing FOE meeting culture.

What is FOE Meeting Culture?

FOE stands for Facts, Opinions, and Experience.

FOE dictates that decisions made in meetings must be based on this FOE order:

Facts > Experience > Opinions

When FOE cannot offer guidance, the decision making defers to Directly Responsible Individual (Apple) or Area of Responsibility person (Asana).

Read on for more details.

In the meantime, print the above out and paste them on your meeting room walls and no one will dread meetings ever again!

How does FOE Make Meeting Productive?

FOE helps in 2 ways:

  1. It defines rules of engagement prior to meetings thus every participant who turns up for the meeting has implicitly agreed to abide by these rules
  2. The rules of engagement are clear and objective thus minimizing unnecessary conflicts while facilitating meeting progress

Objective and Clear Definition of FOE

For the meeting culture to be clear, FOE needs to be formally defined.

Facts

It is a ‘fact’ when 80% (choose a different number if you wish) of people who are well-versed in the subject gives you the same answer, e.g., 8 out of top 10 Internet search results echo the same sentiment, or show hard empirical data.

Caveats:

  • Be careful to ensure that the question you ask is NOT biased, and the assumptions put forth is accurate
  • Be careful to ensure that sources of answer is NOT biased. Polling your followers on Twitter may be biased because they are followers who share common viewpoints with you

Experience

When it is infeasible to find facts/data, the advice of the person who has experience most relevant to the situation should have the most gravity.

Caveats

  • Identifying the person with most relevant experience relies on accurately assessing the situation we are in, and the assumptions related to it

Opinion

In the Internet era, everyone has opinions, dogs too!

Everyone who has an opinion should:

  • Carry out simple experiments to validate her/his opinion
  • For successful experiments, increase the expenditure to prove its scalability
  • For unsuccessful experiments, make tweaks based on discovery from previous experiments, and re-run them

These experiment guidelines encourages opinions that can be proven quickly with minimal budget. This in turn encourages iterating ideas nimbly versus having a big inflexible hairy goal.

The Buck Stops Here — DRI

Briefly the DRI is a person responsible for a piece of project. She MUST:

  • Know the current state of the project
  • Ensure that all key performance indicators (KPIs) are on track
  • Identify potential issues that may derail the project
  • Organize and acquire all resource required for timely project completion

Since the DRI bears all these burden, she has the final say when FOE cannot guide decision making.

Conclusion

FOE meeting culture weeds out politics and unnecessary conflicts mainly through:

  • Clear and objective meeting rules
  • Empowers anyone to find facts, gain experience, or validate their opinions to push an idea through in the best interest of the company regardless of their job roles

What do you think? Please leave and questions and feedback.

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