Trying tactical meetings: a confession

I am starting with a confession: I am not always a model student!

I attended an excellent course on Holacracy to experience the two types of meetings that are critical to being ‘powered by Holacracy’. These meetings are called the Tactical Meeting and the Governance meeting. The objective of the session was to introduce the meetings, not to feel that you could rush out and implement them. In fact if you want to be a Holacracy practitioner to use the process within your organisation, there’s a four and a half day course to go on.

I should know better than to rush on ahead. After all, I wouldn’t be too happy if someone watched an hour-long webinar on person-centred reviews and then decided that they were ready to facilitate the process without additional help! But I wanted to team to experience the Tactical Meeting, thought I could give it a go, and was confident that they would forgive me if I got it wrong. I’m not sure if the Holacracy folk will though!

Giving it a go

We were already well into our 2 day team meeting – about 3pm in the afternoon. We had voted on, and made the decision to commit to Teal. After lunch Jo led a session on person-centred outcomes. We were changing our process and poster based on what we had been learning over the last two years of supporting people to develop their own. After a short break, fuelled with wasabi peas (me) and chocolate and fruit (Emily had taken the ‘hospitality role’ for this team meeting and had provided wonderful treats) we were ready to experience the Tactical Meeting process.

The Tactical Meeting process is a way to ‘triage’ workplace tensions and quickly decide what the next step will be to move forward. A tension represents something in the gap between where we are now, and where we want to be. It could be a challenge, or equally something that we see we could do better. You can read the full process here.

I asked the team for suggestions of tensions, just in a couple of words. We quickly generated a list of eight tensions.

Here were some of them:

We looked at the list to see if we needed to look at any in a particular order, but none were dependent on each other, so we simply worked through the list.

In our current meeting format, the person who owns the issue (or tension in this case) would explain what it was and introduce the question that they wanted the team to help with. In the Tactical Meeting process, I simply asked the person who brought the tension, “What do you need?”. No background and explanation required – simply what do you need to address this tension.

What did we need?

Sometimes it was ideas. One team member wanted to know how other people were managing the size of our files on Dropbox. He learned who was only using it on the cloud, and I took an action away to reduce the number of duplicated Powerpoints in my ‘Keynotes’ folder.

For others, it was more about getting some support. Another team member needed help to write up detailed trainer notes, and the solution was simple, for two other team members to spend 40 minutes thinking this through with her at the team meeting. We simply scheduled that for the next day.

Another team member wanted ideas about what to do when they deliver a 2-day course that relies on people completing e-learning before they arrive, and four people have not completed it. We came up with a range of ideas, and actions that followed.

So did it work? 

Largely, yes. Above all, it was amazingly efficient. Ten agenda items were completed in 70 minutes.

We also asked everyone what they thought. Their reflections ranged from disciplined to brutal, from efficient to feeling on-the-spot when being asked what you need.

Someone made the important point that if I continued to facilitate these meetings, then I was effectively reinforcing again ‘business as usual’ rather than the change we are making towards self-management. The decision was for another member of the team to… attend the four and a half day course on Holacracy. So whilst I might not always be the perfect student, as a team we’ll get there in the end! Perhaps I don’t need to confess after all.