Uday salunkhe designing productive meetings


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This article talks about new methods of conducting efficient and productive meetings using the elements of Design thinking. It has been co- authored by Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Director of the prestigious Welingkar Institute of Management and Research.

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Uday salunkhe designing productive meetings

  1. 1. Designing Productive meetings Anuja Agarwal, Dr. S. Gondhalekar, Prof. Dr. Uday Salunkhe ABSTRACT The Research paper introduces a new method of conducting efficient and productive meetings using the elements of Design thinking. A research was conducted on 118 participants, who were given a task that required them to conduct meetings in groups and to come up with the solutions of the problem stated. The productivity of the meetings was measured in terms of the number of ideas generated by each group. The statistical analysis of the results showed that using the elements of Design Thinking in the process, greatly improved the number of solution ideas generated and helped in making the meetings more productive. The current study is a strong indicator towards the tangible benefits of using Design Thinking approach in Management functions and paves way further research on the impact of using this new approach in Management. Keywords: Design thinking, creativity, productive meetings, Snow-ball method, designing productive meetings, group discussion.Introduction : Why is it important to make meetings more „productive‟The Decision making process is no longer the forte of the elite top managementbut has trickled down to the wider levels in the organization. All employees areentrusted with some decision-making at various levels and are held accountablefor the same. This has made it necessary for the management to develop „Decisionmaking‟ as a democratic process within their organizations to empower thedecision makers at various levels. Holding effective meetings is a necessary partof the democratic framework of decision making process. With the businessmoving faster than ever, meetings are how we stay informed. Meetings provide ademocratic and collaborative way of realizing a shared goal. It is a platform forsharing of ideas coming out of people with varied experiences. As a result todaysprofessionals are attending more meetings than ever done in the past. The case isnot only so in India but in other countries as well.
  2. 2. 1 According to a survey data, Managers spend more than 30 per cent of their time inmeetings. During an average meeting, agenda items are covered in only 53% of thescheduled time, with the remaining time “unproductive.” In the “do more with less time”climate that we are in today, it is important to maximize the effectiveness of meetings. Atypical busy professional attends nearly 60 meetings a month, of which more than 10 percent involve travel out of town 2. A study of salaries and benefits from unproductivemeetings involving 16 members of a company‟s information technology department overa year resulted that unproductive meetings were costing the company $1.6 million peryear3.Measure of productivity of meetingsThe productivity of meetings is often judged by different parameters dependingon the „Type of meeting‟ being held. In a meeting where the outcome is to findmultiple possible solutions to a defined problem, the more the ideas get generatedfor solutions, the more is the chance of getting good quality ideas. This happensbecause as the ideas begin to flow, there arises an opportunity to build upon eachother‟s ideas and keep refining the quality of ideas till the point of satisfaction.Thus the best parameter to judge the productivity of the meeting is the number ofideas (for solutions) generated in the meeting [1]. In turn, the number of ideasgenerated is a function of the „Creative thinking‟ abilities of the members of thegroup [2].If we look closely at the context of a corporate meeting, usually the participantsare corporate executives who have come through a form of managementeducation that enables them to assess the situation analytically, looking at thefacts rather than possibilities. The analytical approach has it‟s own advantages ofslicing the problem into smaller and more manageable data and task drivenactivities in silos. This kind of left brain thinking can become a constraint incertain situations. On the other hand, the Design Thinking approach is very wellsuited for nurturing right brain -Creative thinking in the corporate executives. Infact, in today‟s world based on Creative economy where „Design‟ is the keydifferentiator for a company‟s success, Creativity is emerging as one of the mostimportant competencies of the future managers.Design Thinking – A new approach in Management educationDesign Thinking is a discipline that uses designer‟s methods to understand the users‟needs, match them with the technological feasibility and translate into viable businessstrategy. It provides a new approach in management education that bases itself on theneed of looking at the Management education from a humane and holistic perspectiverather than creating the silos of functional specialization and resource utilization.1 Ref: Des Moines Business Record; 5/16/2005, Vol. 23 Issue 20, Special Section p22-22, 1/2p2 Research commissioned by MCI WorldCom Conferencing and carried out by the Research BusinessInternational3 Mississippi Business Journal, September 4-10, 2006 Page 7
  3. 3. The elements of „Design Thinking‟ that further strengthen the architecture ofManagement education are: a. Creative thinking b. Human perspective c. Multisensory „Observation‟ d. Multidisciplinary inputs from other fields, like Design, Technology, Social Sciences, Psychology, Anthropology etc. e. Integrating Management functions as opposed to the silos created through specializations. f. Formulate problems and Visualize innovative/ Breakthrough solutions. g. Visual Communication h. Nurture „Questioning mind‟ i. Project based learning & PrototypingDesigning productive meetings using the elements of design thinking:Using the elements of Design Thinking, we designed a new method of conductingmeetings which enhances their effectiveness. We coined a new term for this method asthe „Snow-ball Method‟. Usually the meetings are conducted in a group discussion mode,which inherently does not follow any set rules of speaking or listening. In this method,more emphasis is laid on first sharing the observations and pain-points related to the issuebeing discussed, listening to each other‟s ideas for plausible solutions and then eitherbuild on them or add your own new ideas. Thus, the ideas „snow-ball‟ into bigger andbetter ones.The ‘Snow-ball Method’:The „Snow-ball Method‟ of conducting the meetings is most effective when themeeting is about coming up with solutions for a problem experienced by all themembers of the group. This method comprises of the following steps to be takenby the members of the meeting to solve the problem stated to them at thebeginning of the meeting.1. The members select a facilitator from amongst themselves.2. The facilitator writes the objective set by the group, on the board provided.3. The members must begin by voicing the observations and any pain-points relevant to the topic given, within their group while the others listen. The facilitator notes these observations and pain-points of each member on the board visible to all. This is to
  4. 4. ensure that everyone in the group has seen the issue from each other‟s perspective and also looked at the positive as well as the pain-points surrounding the situation.4. Once the issue has been looked at holistically, and thoughts about the same shared with each other, the process of ideation for the solution begins as per the following steps.5. Each member, including the facilitator, gives ideas for the solution of the problem, one by one moving in the clockwise direction. These ideas are written on the board by the facilitator.6. Every group member is invited to build on each other‟s ideas.7. While the ideas are being generated no member of the group should comment or discuss on each other‟s idea, the focus should be on generating the solutions and not evaluating them.8. We recommend at least two rounds of idea generation within the given time period post which all the ideas have to be re-looked at for suggesting a recommended course of action.9. The solutions generated as well the recommended course of action should be submitted on separate sheets of paper.The method described above uses subtle interventions of some of the elements of DesignThinking. For instance when the members of the group are asked to identify the pain-points related to the problem stated, it is a reminder to them to think from a humanperspective and bring their multisensory observation skills to the fore. Observation itselfis a very powerful tool used by designers to generate information in a non-obtrusivemanner. Therefore the members of the group are encouraged to observe the situationaround the issue and bring forth their experiences during the observation exercise.Observations bring out the positives as well as the pain-points related to the givencontext/issue. Recording of the ideas on the board provides the visual communicationamong the members as they all can see each other‟s ideas and build upon them ifrequired. Prompting each member to contribute two ideas in each round and setting therule of „no-evaluation of ideas‟ in this round, nudges them to come up with new ideaswithout the fear of being judged upon too early, nurtures their creativity and motivatesthe members to contribute more ideas freely. The more the number of ideas generated,the more is their creativity quotient [2].Normally the meetings are conducted in a group discussion mode, where people presenttheir views and there are arguments and counter arguments to the points. In the end thestrongest ideas who survive the test of argument, wins. The snow-ball method is differentbecause it helps to build upon the ideas of each other. It has some similarities with thebrainstorming method of generating solutions to the problem stated [5]; but the Snow-ball
  5. 5. method ensures definite enhancements over the latter in the situations where the problemwhose solution is sought has been experienced by the participants. 1. The participants are encouraged to share their Observations and Pain points surrounding the problem stated, before they can start ideating for the solutions. The participants spent 40% time in sharing observations and pain points, 40% in ideation for finding solutions and 20% to compile their recommendations. 2. These Observations are listed down on the board by the facilitator. Listing their on the board is a confirmation of „having-been-heard‟ and the mind is then free to move to think about the next step of solution ideation.The Experimental Design:We made an experimental design to see whether this „Snow-ball Method‟ actually makesthe meetings more productive or not, which led us to formulate the following Hypothesis:The Hypothesis:H0: The Snow-ball method is not significantly different from Group discussion.H1: The Snow-ball method is superior to the normal Group discussion.We decided to test the hypothesis experimentally by having a group conduct the meetingby each of the two methods. Thus the „treatment‟ was the snow-ball method and the„control‟ was the Group Discussion. The result of the experiment was measured in termsof the number of ideas generated during the meeting since this was the appropriatemeasure (as explained earlier) .We envisaged that the composition of the group mayimpact the results, so we took the group composition as the „blocking‟ or „noise‟ factor.We had two variables, „Method of discussion‟ and „Composition of group‟. Each onevaried at two levels. Level 1- Group DiscussionMethod of discussion Level 2- Snow-ball Level 1- Single Disciplinary groupGroup Composition Level 2- Multi Disciplinary groupThe full factorial design consisted of four experiments (22 variables). We used the fullfactorial design of 4 experiments. Each experiment was replicated 8 times.We made two types of groups on the basis of their previous qualifications.We took 16 groups, 8 groups comprised of participants from similar academicqualifications, for example : „only engineers‟, ‟only science graduates‟, „only commercegraduates‟ etc. The other 8 groups comprised of mix of participants from variousacademic qualifications.
  6. 6. Table 1: Number of groups participating in the experiment Method Group Snow-ball DiscussionGroupcomposition Single disciplinary 8 8 Multi- disciplinary 8 8Each group was given the „treatment‟ and „control‟. We also envisaged that the sequenceof Group Discussion or Snow-ball will have an effect on the results, so we had half thegroups do the Group Discussion first and Snow-ball later; and the other half groups dothe process in reverse order. We selected topics where the participants had alreadyexperienced the issue. The assignment of the group was done by randomization. Theparticipants receiving the „treatment‟ were explained the snow-ball method and wereasked to use the same while coming up with the solutions. The necessary tools like thewhite board and flip chart, typically used in a design thinking approach used for problemsolving were made available to them. In the „control‟ group no instructions were given onthe process to be followed, in effect they were left free to carry out Group Discussion tocomplete the task. The whole procedure of decision making and the way in which themeetings were conducted, were video recorded by the volunteers.This experimental design which consisted of 2 variables at 2 levels enabled us to estimatethe main effects and interaction effects.Analysis and Interpretation of results:Table 2: Data tableMethod used Group Composition Number of ideas generated by the 8 groupsGroup- Single-Discussion(GD)/ disciplinary(S)/Snow-ball(SN) Multi- disciplinary(M)GD S 9 8 15 9 6 2 13 8GD M 18 9 15 15 10 4 10 8SN S 16 16 25 20 13 16 18 18SN M 16 16 18 18 7 9 15 7
  7. 7. Analysis using 2 way ANOVA:Table 3: The ANOVA tableSource df SS MS F pMethod of discussion 1 253.125 253.125 13.53 0.001Group composition 1 8.000 8.000 0.43 0.518Interaction 1 91.125 91.125 4.87 0.036Error 28 523.750 18.705Total 31 876.000(Standard ANOVA notation has been used) 1. As the ANOVA table shows, we can safely reject H0 at 0.1% level of significance. Concluding that, „there is a significant difference between the two methods‟. 2. The group composition has no significant effect on the results. If we were to claim that group comp has significant effect, the probability of our being wrong would be as high as 51.8%. 3. The interaction is significant at 3.6% level of significance. We investigated further by calculating the values of main effect and interaction effect and checking their significance by plotting them on normal probability plot.Table 4: Main interaction and effects table A B A=1 A=2 B=1 B=2 A×B A×B =1 =2Method Group Avg. no.used compo- of ideas sition generatedGD S 8.75 8.75 8.75 8.75GD M 11.13 11.13 11.13 11.13SN S 17.75 17.75 17.75 17.75SN M 12.88 12.88 12.88 12.88 Total= 19.88 30.63 26.50 24.00 28.88 21.63 N= 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 Avg= 9.94 15.31 13.25 12.00 14.44 10.81 Effect= 5.38 -1.25 -3.63GD= Group Discussion, SN= Snow-ball, S= Single disciplinary, M= MultidisciplinaryWhere 1 indicates the variable at low value and 2 indicates the variable at high value
  8. 8. As we can see that the main effect of the method used (Group Discussion or Snow-ball)is 5.38 and the main effect of Group composition (Single disciplinary orMultidisciplinary) is small. Interaction effect is 3.63. Probability Plot of Effects Normal - 95% CI 99 Mean 0.1667 StDev 4.669 95 N 3 AD 0.268 90 P-Value 0.359 80 70 Percent 60 50 40 30 20 10 5 1 -20 -10 0 10 20 EffectsFigure 1: Probability Plot of EffectsWhen we plotted these three effects on the normal probability plot, we found the„interaction effects‟ to be on the straight line, where as the „main effects‟ were away fromthe line. The „main effect‟ of the method used was to the right of the line. Since the pointfalling on the line could be due to random effects, we cannot accept the „interactioneffect‟ as meaningful. Thus the 2 tests applied, i.e. ANOVA and Normal probability plot,strongly indicate that only the method used in the process has a significant effect on theoutcome.Applying Signal to Noise ration on the Effects:We wanted to check the Robustness of the Snow-ball Method used for conductingmeetings, so we calculated the signal to noise ratio for the Larger-the-better case: S/N ratio = -10 log(∑(1/y2 )/n)Where y is the number of ideas and S is the number of groups and the S/N ratio is the Signal to Noise ratio.Considering the S/N ratios, the main effect of the method used (GD or Snow-ball) is 6.56,the main effect of the Group composition (Single disciplinary or Multi-disciplinary ) is0.14, and the interaction effect is -4.35.
  9. 9. Table 5: Main interaction and effects table using the S/N Ratio A B A=1 A=2 B=1 B=2 A×B A×B =1 =2Method Group Signal toused compo- Noise sition ratio (S/N)GD S 13.66 13.66 13.66 13.66GD M 18.15 18.15 18.15 18.15SN S 24.57 24.57 24.57 24.57SN M 20.36 20.36 20.36 20.36 Total= 31.82 44.94 38.24 38.51 42.72 34.03 N= 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 Avg= 15.91 22.47 19.12 19.26 21.36 17.01 Effect= 6.56 0.14 -4.35GD= Group Discussion, SN= Snow-ball, S= Single disciplinary, M= MultidisciplinaryWhere 1 indicates the variable at low value and 2 indicates the variable at high value Probability Plot of S/NEffects Normal - 95% CI 99 Mean 0.7833 StDev 5.483 95 N 3 AD 0.201 90 P-Value 0.578 80 70 Percent 60 50 40 30 20 10 5 1 -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 S/NEffectsFigure 2: Probability plot of Signal to Noise Ratio effectsThe probability plot of the main and interaction effects of S/N ratios shows that theinteraction effect is practically on the normal probability curve and hence cannot betreated as meaningful, even though its p value in ANOVA is 4.6% (below 5%). Thesame is true of the main effect of Group composition (Single disciplinary orMultidisciplinary). The main effect of Method (GD or Snow-ball) is on the right of thenormal probability line, indicating that it could be significant.We also applied ANOVA by converting each response to Signal to Noise ratio using theformula : S/N ratio = -10 log(∑(1/y2 )/n)Where y is the number of ideas and S is the number of groups and the S/N ratio is the Signal to Noise ratio.
  10. 10. Table 6: 2 way ANOVA table for S/N RatioSource df SS MS F pMethod of discussion 1 147.424 147.424 9.75 0.004Group composition 1 1.153 1.153 0.08 0.784Interaction 1 64.391 64.391 4.26 0.048Error 28 423.418 15.122Total 31 636.386The ANOVA table shows the method to be significant at 0.4% level of significance,while the group composition is not. We can safely accept that Snow-ball is indeed aROBUST4 method for conducting Productive meetings aimed at generating solutions.Conclusion and further scope:We conclude at 99% level of confidence that: 1) Snow-ball method is significantly superior to the Group Discussion in the task of finding solution to the problem stated. 2) Group composition does not matter. 3) Snow-ball is a “robust” method. By robust, we mean that it is not sensitive to variation in the noise parameters, such as group composition.We have provided a research framework for conducting meetings, which could be usedfor different output and input variables. We have used this method to test the number ofcreative ideas generated during meetings, it could be used to test the „Decision makingskills‟ or the „consensus building skills‟ in meetings. Similarly the measuring parameterscould change to „type of ideas‟ instead of „quality of ideas‟. With this research we haveintroduced a new process of conducting productive meetings using one of the elements of„Design Thinking‟. More such examples of using other elements of „Design thinking‟ toimprove various management related functions could be developed and tested upon togive a conclusive evidence that using „Design Thinking‟ approach in Managementprovides an innovative perspective to more effective and efficient management functions.4 Taguchis formula for Robustness:Lochner, R.H., and Matar J.E., Designing for Quality, Chapman & Hall, 1990, pp 134-137.
  11. 11. References:[1] http://www.profitpowerofcreativity.com/2009/04/how-to-measure-creativity.html[2] Snyder,Mitchell,Bossomiar,Pallier. (2004). “The creativity quotient: An Objectivescoring of ideational fluency,” Creativity Research Journal 2004, Vol 16, No. 4[3] Yong Se Kim, Myung Sook Kim, Douglass J. Wilde. (2008). “Toward theManagement of Design Creativity: Personal Creativity Modes, Design Activity,and Team Interaction,” Design Management Review, pp 45-52.[4] Tim Brown,(2008), “Design Thinking,” Harvard Business Review[5] Gail Kay, “Effective meetings through Electronic Brainstorming”, Journal ofManagement Development 14,6[6] Becky Gillette,(2006). “Bad meetings can cost companies millions in money,Time”, Mississippi Business Journal[7] Doug Beckley,(2005).“Holding effective meetings creates the power to getthings done”, Las Vegas Business Press[8] Elsayed-Elkhouly, Lazarus, Forsythe, “Why is a third of your timewasted in meetings?”, Journal of Management Development 16,9[9] Sara L. Beckman, Micheal Barry (2007). “Innovation as learning process:Embedding Design Thinking” California Management Review Volume 50,No.1[10] De Bono, (1996), “Serious Creativity”, HarperCollins Business