Deal with small fires but not larger issues

Meetings are often used to deal with immediate problems. When meetings focus only on immediate, urgent issues, larger and more global issues, may be ignored. (Opportunities for prevention may be missed.) Consideration of larger issues need not be reserved solely for annual retreats. As a leader you can ensure that you discuss something that is important, but not necessarily urgent, at every meeting.

How to focus on large issues

To ensure that larger issues are not ignored, consider some of these strategies for structuring your meetings:

  • At the start of the semester decide which staff meetings will be devoted to which larger issues or topics. UW-Madison Deans' Council meetings provide an example. Meeting topics are identified at the start of the academic year and each meeting focuses on an aspect of the campus strategic plan. The larger issue is on the agenda first followed by other business.
  • When composing the meeting agenda make sure you include at least one item for discussion that focuses on something strategically important, but not urgent.
  • See Best Practices on how to Allot time for topics based on their significance
  • Invite leaders with responsibility for aspects of the larger issues to attend selected meetings to provide a broader context for understanding and discussion.
  • Consider asking a neutral facilitator to help plan how best to introduce, segment into manageable parts, and discuss a large or difficult issue. Contact the Office of Quality Improvement for ideas.