Documenting Meetings

Unclear speaking and writing indicate unclear thinking. If you are acutely aware of where you are leading your group, then express this objective in a written statement, for your benefit and theirs. If you are unable to articulate your meeting objective in writing, you need more time or understanding.

Meetings need to be documented. If they are not documented, nothing happened. Therefore, an effective leader begins by documenting the meeting objectives, frequently called deliverables. To understand the value of a deliverable, it should be viewed with respect to its impact on all other objectives of an organization, as part of the organizational holarchy.

The organizational holarchy represents the web of interdependent connections throughout an organization. The root arch in the terms holarchy and hierarchy means governance or rule; hier means sacred or holy, while holos means whole. Thus, in a holarchy, each cell is both a whole and a part; systems are nested within one another. One well-known phrase calls the holarchy of humankind the butterfly effect. Einstein labeled his mathematical holarchy relativity.

An organization may be called a corporation, a government body, or something else. An organization may represent a collection of business units. Not all organizations are large enough to be separated into discrete business units. And in some organizations, the departments are so large, they would be called business units in other organizations. Please be flexible when drawing lines about the terms being used. In both commercial and governmental organizations, business units control departments or programs that are ongoing. Each ongoing department or program commands a collection of products or projects that come and go, with discrete starting and stopping points. Thus, the organization frequently executes its strategy through investments it makes toward new or renewed products and projects, some lasting longer than others.

The holarchy represents the unity of all the objectives, from business units to answers developed in meetings. The purpose of any meeting ought to support the organization’s purpose, scope, and objectives. If not, the meeting should be canceled. To know which products or projects are most important, leaders use their awareness of what else is going on in and around the organization to ascertain the extent to which a particular initiative supports the purpose, scope, and objectives of everything else going on in the organization.

A change in any one of the cells of the holarchy causes a ripple throughout an organization, whether subtle or profound. The success or failure of new products affect the development of subsequent new products (or projects). Likewise, a project’s success or failure affects the sponsoring department or program, and those ripples are felt by its business unit and organization. Understanding the organizational holarchy requires one to begin with the end in mind, as Steven Covey put it. If actions taken or decisions made within an organization do not harmonize with the organization’s purpose, stay within the organization’s scope, and support the organization’s objectives, the actions or decisions are unwarranted.

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