To attend a well led meeting is a joy. You feel you’ve used your time well, learnt something, contributed & been listened to. This is particularly true if you have a masterful chair.
I was struck by this thought at lunchtime today having attended meetings last night (a hustings for my local parliamentary constituency) & this morning (a ‘town hall’ meeting at work). The contrast between the two meetings was stark: the work one was excellent, the hustings a mess. I began thinking about why this was. My conclusion: the work meeting had a very competent chair, while the hustings had a weak chair.
A chair is in charge of the meeting; takes control of the proceedings; is supported in managing the meeting; facilitates discussions & input from everyone in the room. Senses when things aren’t going well & sets the meeting back on course. Plus of course makes sure things are running on time, & if not, sorts out if over running the meeting is an option.
This isn’t an easy task. It requires practice & self-awareness. It helps too, to have the opportunity to observe excellent & poor chairs in action to learn from them. I’ve adopted that technique & believe my chairing has improved, thanks to putting into practice techniques I’ve observed.
If you want to improve your chairing skills make sure to observe others in action & reflect on their behaviour. I do wish the chair of the hustings last night had followed that advice.
Change management often involves adapting to your environment and altering plans to achieve goals. As evidence for this the panelists at last week’s SLA Europe session, entitled ‘All Change! All Change??’ certainly managed to cope admirably with their environment, particularly as the venue had a raucous quiz next door and lacked a microphone. The panelists calm response to these factors proved to be a good indication of how well they all naturally cope with change.
The panel session was chaired by Lesley Robinson with four speakers who provided a series of case studies on change and change management from a mix of sectors: banking, healthcare policy think-tank and a national library.
Ian Wooler, Director of IDW, stressed change ‘is a process not an event’, so be prepared for the next change. He used de Bono’s six thinking hats as a tool to explore change. By using each of the hats Ian highlighted how complex change is. Thus reminding us that we all see change from different perspectives. Ian also stressed the importance of having a baseline of activity before change implementation to measure success against.
While John Coll, Head of Access at National Library of Scotland, used a series of questions (why, where, what, how and when) approach to identify key issues involved in managing change programmes. His key tips were:
- lead by example (it helps if those in charge have been through the change process)
- it’s all about people
- credibility is vital – be as honest and transparent as possible
- perseverance is essential
Veronica Kennard, Director at Rothschild, is midway through a change programme, so she talked about the importance of appreciating organisational culture when considering change. As part of their current change programme she is having to change user behaviour and mange expectations.
From the King’s Fund, Ray Phillips, Head of Information Services, described the changes the information centre had undergone since 2007: physical move, downsizing of the collection, increasing income generation and restructuring. All of these had been done successfully by involving the staff and demonstrating that their library skills could help solve King’s Fund problems. Examples included collaborating with IT and replacing library management system with open source solution, which was more compatible with other IT systems in the organisation, and saved money. Developing a database of position statements to ensure the King’s Fund could keep track of what was said when on policy matters. For all of these the ‘Library was seen as change agents for the organisation.’
What made the event a success was the mix of participants and their different cultures, sectors and stages of change management, all of which underline Ian’s point that change is complex. The networking following the session was fun and interesting, with lots of food and wine. Thanks to The Financial Times and Swets for sponsoring the event.