The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Bottom-up Operational Review Meetings

Get problems solved

Meetings should be like salt – a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful. Too much salt destroys a dish. Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.


Jason Fried


In a Nutshell

f you’re a middle manager, it’s not surprising if the phrase “Operational Review Meeting”(ORM) fills you with dread. While they are slowly being phased out in many companies, these meetings continue to exist in conventional enterprises as a way for the upper management to understand what is happening at the ground level.

Typically, these hour-long meetings take place at specific intervals, based on milestones or events, and require plenty of preparation from middle management and their team members. Several team members are expected to attend these meetings regardless of whether they are required, eating away at the collective time of the team to do actual work. Much of the meeting is spent educating and setting the context for upper management (despite having sent preparatory material) instead of tackling any substantive issues. By the end of the meeting, the reporting manager and his/her team are not sure of what they have gained out of this meeting.

Doing away with the process, or expecting upper management to always be better prepared are long-term solutions that do not address the pressing need of middle managers. A different way of making such meetings effective could be empowering the middle manager with Bottom-Up ORMs, where they call for these meetings when they need to tap into the expertise of the upper management. By calling for a meeting and defining the agenda, the middle manager is able to be in charge of creating a productive meeting. Each participant in such a meeting has a reason for being there and know what they are expected to contribute. It also empowers the upper management, as they can always decide whether the topic to be discussed really requires a face-to-face meeting to address the issue.

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