You’ve probably experienced meetings that start out like a rocket being launched and then, slowly and surely, fizzle out. Sometimes it even seems as the amount of energy you’ve put into the meeting is irrelevant, because there’s always one or two thrust killers that always succeed in watering down targets.

In today’s article, read about how to defuse the thrust killers with an easy, yet radical tactic and never give them a chance to bring down your endeavor.

The 5-Step Thrust Canceller

A widespread process for not achieving targets and saving face unfolds over these 5 phases:

  1. Agree,
  2. Complicate,
  3. Water down,
  4. Peter out and
  5. Forgive

Targets which were once agreed get divided into ever-smaller, interlinked sub-targets, rendering the original targets increasingly unclear until they are barely recognizable. In the end, commiserations are expressed (“Well … we tried!”) and, on the surface, lift the mood. The targets however remain unachieved. 

The more process freedoms are given to those participating in meetings and reporting, the easier it is for this process to get rolling. These freedoms are, however, seldom openly communicated as being such. But if the only specification for a report presentation is that the company logo be placed in the top-left corner, the door is opened to (unconscious) meandering: It becomes easy to place personal and political agendas in the foreground, which often become a grateful topic of discussion. The content, howver, slips into the background. The first phase of the 5-phase-thrust-killing engine starts up.

Alignment Incentive: Cloverleaf Constraints

Meetings and reports aren’t jam sessions, they are not the place to improvise or promote oneself. Our Cloverleaf Constraints measure is a formal structure that helps counteract all meandering and to nip the thrust killers in the bud. It makes it easy to emphasize quantifiable criteria and put the handbrake on self-promotion and thereby contributes to results being presented, rather than process reports or those based on personal experience.

It consists of four quadrants:

  1. A simple representation of the project definition
  2. The key performance indicators relevant to the measure
  3. The effect that the measure is supposed to achieve
  4. The current status of the measure

Download Template: Cloverleaf Constraints

We suggest you introduce a new rule in your meetings and reports and enforce it consistently: A measure will be discussed only if the presenter adheres to the Cloverleaf Constraints template. Some friction might arise at first as the self-promoters will be robbed of PowerPoint, their favorite instrument for self-promotion. However, in the medium-term, and above all, the long-term, you will see measurable improvements.

What’s Keeping us Busy

During the past months, we’ve been working on a new book on the topic “Challenges for HR.” In it, we write about topics such as efficient recruiting, performance management and how productive cooperation can be developed between colleagues from different age groups. Have you any input on these topics? Topic wishes for the book? Or are there any problem areas that you keep spotting in HR? Tell us!