For some years, I’ve used a simple trick to greatly increase effectiveness in meetings:
Let everyone draw a “1” on a sticky note, then give them this instruction:
One Minute Card
“Raise this card whenever you feel the current conversation or speaker should come to an end within one minute.”
When first introduced, this tool usually eliminates the behaviour it was designed to address 🙂
In the Scrum training I recently gave, I introduced two more cards:
One card gets a stop sign. Raise this to say
You may or may not state a reason. You may add something like “Let’s get coffee.” “Let’s let some air in.” or you give someone else a chance to do that. Maybe you just need to think. Maybe you think everyone should take a deep breath. The magic is, you don’t need to talk – you just raise the card.
Directing people’s attention can work magic. Especially in uncomfortable situations (maybe there’s conflict, maybe the topic is emotional, maybe all are tired…”) it can be hard to state our discomfort out loud – because it can almost always been taken as blame. The card directs attention and it just issues a very simple request.
Good Intention Card
The card with the smile helps you in awkward moments… It says
“That was probably well-intentioned…”
(Deutsch: “Das war bestimmt gut gemeint.” If you have a better English translation, I’m all ears!) It’s a fun, light-weight way to call out toxic behaviours and remind everyone of the option to assume good intent.
I’m thinking about printing these cards as a small thing to hand out to people I work with. What would you add? How do you like these?
The first card (“1”) I stole with pride from Ari-Pekka Lappi of Flowa fame. He shared this and more meeting hacks at Play4Agile years ago. The “Pause” card I adapted from a card he introduced this year in his “Make Conflicts great again” session at Play4Agile… Kiitos!
Deborah PreussMarch 4, 2017
I really like the first two cards!
Though, I had to look twice to see what you called a “stop sign”. In america a circle with a line in it is usually red, and means “back up! You’re going against the flow!” Also called the “wrong way” or “no entry” sign. I’d like to use it though, so I’ll be thinking of what might be more neutral. Maybe a classic octagonal red stop sign.
The last one feels aggressive to me, as if to say: “you did a dumb thing, but I’m smiling”. Which is not something I’d need to say in a meeting. You mention awkward situations, which are indeed moments when a simple facilitation intervention can be fruitful. I’d be interested to hear example scenarios when you’d use it.
Olaf LewitzMarch 4, 2017
Hi Deb, thanks for entering the conversation!
re stop sign –> see my answer to Markus. You’re correct.
The third card is controversial, and that’s the point. It gives people a pointer to a potential, or apparent, toxic behaviour. Calling out blame, contempt, stonewalling, bullying… is hard, and outside most people’s comfort zone. If you said “you did a dumb thing, but I’m smiling” that would be patronising, judgmental, … lots of things we don’t want to be. The card is not saying that, it’s hinting at the possibility that someone might say that – and that instead we remind ourselves of the principle “assume positive intent”. I found that card surprisingly helpful, and it was used with astonishing frequency.
Hope this helps. Thanks for this thoughtful comment!
Markus SilpalaMarch 4, 2017
Nice. I’m going to try this.
One nit-pick: isn’t that a Do Not Enter sign? A Stop sign would be an octagon. Either one gets the message across though, and the DNE sign is far simpler to draw.
Possible alternate translations for the smiley:
* That was certainly well-intended
* Surely she/he/they meant well
Olaf LewitzMarch 4, 2017
Hi Markus, thanks for entering the conversation!
Yes, it’s a do not enter sign – some actually drew the octagon. Thinking about the “pause” word, we could also use the sign of a Pause key (from tapes or media players). That would be even easier to draw…
I like the alternative translations. Thank you!
George DinwiddieMarch 4, 2017
I’ve heard of people using a hand signal to represent “You’ve convinced me, go on to the next point.” This is used to keep the conversation moving when someone is overselling one part of their idea. If everyone is motioning that they’re on board, then the speaker can quit belaboring that point.
I don’t remember what hand signal signifies this, but the concept strikes me as a useful addition to your set of cards.
Olaf LewitzMarch 6, 2017
Hi George, thanks for entering the conversation!
Yes, that sounds like a good idea, I’ll try it!
Sebastian EichnerMarch 6, 2017
I use cards with a question mark with my teams (i usually can grab them from the unused planning poker packs…). Raising the card means “i’m not sure that this conversation helps us with our meeting goal”. In my experience the speaker realises the problem (not relevant for all, wrong topic, …) immediately and returns to the topic.
2 nice aspects: the speaker takes that turn himself/herself, and it communicates clearly to all participants that it’s okay and even helpful to remind people to get back on track.
It’s indeed one of the most successful tools for improving discussion culture. Happy to see your experiences are positive too!
George DinwiddieMarch 6, 2017
In one group of which I was a part, we threw a stuffed toy squirrel at someone who had gotten distracted on a side issue. That’s probably not an appropriate protocol for every group, but it worked in this one.