An organisation is like an organism – it starts life, changes, grows and dies. These things are not necessarily happening in the wisest or most helpful way and that is why we intervene, that is why we try to influence our organisation’s survival, strength and ongoing success.
One of the factors that make organisations so interesting is the dynamics that go on within it. The thoughts, decisions, actions or inactions of one person or group have a direct impact on others; who respond in a way that has a direct impact on others still. Actions, approaches and decisions create knock-on effects. This is represented in the picture above. Whilst this happens with observable actions – it also happens in intangible ways such as thinking and the development of culture. This is what the ‘Collective Influence’ effect is all about.
Individuals have an internal dialogue. We have conversations with ourselves and literally talk through our ideas, approaches and thinking. We use this inner dialogue to give ourselves feedback and to highlight what went well and what we should do differently. We use our inner dialogue to ‘make sense’ of all the data we encounter and we talk through the different elements to establish a ‘context’ that frames our accepted understanding of things.
Organisations also have this internal dialogue. It is obviously more complex and is made up of a huge number of interactions, discussions and communications that take place everyday. Collectively these interactions influence outlooks, approaches, activities and decisions – this is the ‘Collective Influence’ effect. The organisation gives itself feedback and makes sense of the data. An organisational context emerges. An organisational culture emerges. An organisational personality emerges.
The activities that contribute most to the internal dialogue and collective influence are the meetings that take place. During these interactions – approaches are taken and decisions are made that affect everybody and this extends to all levels up and down the organisation. All altitudes of involvement are covered from the strategic, the tactical and even the day-to-day tasks – these are spoken about, discussed, debated, explored and decided at meetings. This cumulative mass of conversation and communication that takes place over time gives rise to ‘accepted thinking’ and ‘expected thinking’ and it shapes behaviour of many – which in turn shapes the behaviour of the organisation.
This represents an outstanding opportunity to influence the approach and vitality of the business or organisation. If the whole range of meetings that take place are understood and ‘re-engineered’ to be focussed, efficient and aligned – the collective influence can have a profound and positive impact.
The four useful steps to take…
- See meeting facilitation as a valuable skill and ensure that all in leadership become subject matter experts at it.
- Document all the meetings that take place in your organisation. Capture the data to get a bigger picture.
- Review the overall meetings strategy in your organisation. Do not do this in terms of how many, how long and who – do it in terms of why and how?
- Identify and communicate compelling goals for each meeting covering all the appropriate altitudes.
If you would like to access some useful tips and techniques about how to do this, have a look at this SlideShare presentation.