For most of us, meetings are a necessary but time-consuming aspect of organisational life. Their prevalence reflects the important role they play in communication and decision-making, but numerous studies have also demonstrated their time-wasting potential. It is, therefore, important that organisations understand how meetings can be made more effective.
Organisational psychology has shown that the typical patterns of behaviour observed in groups are often counter-productive to achieving both task and interpersonal goals. Behaviour is often influenced by group structures, for example, non-anonymity and imbalances in power can result in meetings being dominated by certain individuals or factions.
Improving group interaction makes it possible to more effectively harness individuals’ knowledge and skills, which increases the likelihood of high-quality outcomes. Interventions which encourage the use of more structured communication and decision-making procedures are therefore required, in order to promote more constructive behaviours and counteract dysfunctional ones. For example, allowing for more equal levels of participation and making decisions through consensus, rather than simple majority.
Facilitation encompasses all those activities carried out before, during, and after a meeting, which enhance a group’s interactions, its cohesion and ultimately its performance. This means facilitative behaviours can potentially be demonstrated by all group members. The failure of most groups to do this effectively, explains the need for expert facilitation and is why, when the stakes are high, the role of facilitator is usually given to someone from outside the group, who is trained in general principles that assist group interaction and which they can apply to particular types of problematic situations.