From Crappy Meetings to Happy Meetings

This is a continuation on the GRASP model for improving meetings, which I blogged about recently.

How do you know which part of your meeting needs improvement? Goal, Room to Think, Autonomy, Shared Focus or Progress? Here are some clues on what to look for – signs of a crappy meeting vs a happy meeting.

In a Crappy Meeting: In a Happy Meeting:
Goal People don’t know the goal when asked.

Discussion topics bounce around based on what is brought up.

After meeting, it feels like we wasted all of the reserved time or more, and some important things were still not covered.

People know what the goal of the meeting is.

Discussion topics are related to the goal. If not, someone points out that this is not relevant to what we need to do now.

At some point, goal of the meeting is met, and meeting can end regardless if all the reserved time is used or not.

Room to Think and Speak Everybody sits around the same table, and there is one discussion going on.

Whoever takes the turn to speak, will generally get it (e.g. by using louder voice or just talking over others, or being first one to speak up).

There are some active participants in conversations, and some who don’t say much or anything.

Everybody gets to speak. Nobody dominates the conversation.

There are also pair or group discussions.

There is time to think in silence.

Things are being written down, on e.g. post-it notes or flip charts.

Autonomy People are invited without asking them, and all invitees need to join.

Chairman dictates the topics of the meeting, and the handling order.

People are just asked for answers to closed questions, or comments on prepared opinions by someone else.

First idea brought up becomes the default and is usually chosen.

People get to choose to join based on if their participation is valuable or not.

Participants get a role in deciding what topics are most important this time.

Participants get to express their opinions and point-of-views.

Participants get to create ideas and choose from them. Lot of ideas are thrown around and also abandoned.

Participants get freedom on issues that the organizer of the meeting doesn’t need to decide.

Shared Focus People are focused on their computers or cell phones.

There are whispered discussions going on when someone speaks.

There is constant need to repeat the question or the discussion when a person gets called by name.

People generally look bored or zoned out.

People generate text or drawings while they speak, e.g. on flip charts.

People are focused on the writing or visual presentation of the speaker.

People point to created flipcharts or pictures when speaking.

Energy is up, people follow the conversation, no need to repeat questions.

Progress Lot of time is used on a possibly important topic, and some things are left out.

Meeting goes over-time.

Discussion topics are not related to the goal of the meeting.

There is a plan how the goal of the meeting will be met, and someone takes care of it.

Discussions are steps on the way towards the goal.

Meeting ends when the goals are reached.

You can probably come up with other signs as well. But what can you do to improve your meeting? How will I get from Crappy to Happy? Here are some simple ideas for each area:


  • Set the goal. Either by yourself, or everybody together, and make it explicit and known.
  • Write the goal on some board on the wall.
  • Check back on the goal from time to time: are we proceeding towards it? Is it still relevant or has something more urgent overridden it?

Room to Think and Speak

  • Give people 1-3 minutes to think about the given question.
  • Split people to small groups to come up with ideas.
  • Summarize results of individual and group work together.


  • Allow people to decide if they participate or not. Don’t force too wide participant list “just in case”.
  • Let people have a say on the goals of the meeting.
  • Ask from participants, what is most relevant for them right now.

Shared Focus

  • Use post-it notes to collect and present ideas from individuals.
  • Write on flip charts in small groups.
  • Summarize comments from participants by writing on flip charts. Ask verification if everyone understood similarly.


  • Advance systematically towards the goal of the meeting.
  • If discussion goes off-course, steer it back on track.
  • Allocate timeboxes for different phases of workshop and stick to them, to make sure there is enough time also for the latter parts.

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