This is a follow-on from last week’s post on the subject of Change Advisory Board (CAB, or sometimes Change Board for short) meetings. This post is going to be on the subject of the meetings themselves, and concentrate on some of the pitfalls and look at some ideas I’ve used.
Firstly, the meeting needs to have an effective chairman or chairwoman – ideally the Change Manager. Except to have to spend at least a few hours beforehand preparing, and be clear about how you wish to handle the meetings. If you are new to the role, ask colleagues to allow you to role-play before your first ‘actual’ meeting.
People will be more willing to attend CAB meetings if you develop a reputation for strict timekeeping early-on. Be punctual – if the meeting is for 10:00, book the room from 9:45 so you’ve got time to clear the laggers out who may still be there at 9:50, giving yourself time to be ready to start at 10:00.
Work out a timed agenda. For example, if you have 20 Changes to examine, and 60 minutes in which to do this, it means that each Change warrants 3 minutes. You can also use a grading system, where more complex Changes get 5 minutes, and more simple or straight-forwards were allocated 2 minutes.
My approach was to have variable length meetings, ranging from 1 to 2 hours. 2 hour meetings had a built-in break at the 1 hour interval. When invites were made to the meeting, I stated the duration (the actual duration being driven by the number of Changes under consideration). I also had a clock which I brought into the meeting and placed on the table in front of me.
My own feeling is that no meeting should go over 2 hours. If for some reason the work could not be concluded within two hours I’d adjourn for another day.
Some companies routinely minute Change Board meetings. I’ve never felt the need for this, but if you do want minutes make sure that someone is there whose sole responsibility it to take and distribute minutes – don’t assume that it’s the job of the Change Manager (something I have recently seen at a customer site). The Change Manager will have enough to do.
If you are going to have any chance of sticking to your timetable, have simple outcomes to the consideration of Change: Accept, Reject, Defer. In each case you’ll want to record notes and comments from your colleagues (particularly in respect to scheduling). Deferment simply puts the Change into a ‘holding pattern’ for the next CAB meeting.
Some companies use a formal sign off document. I’ve tended to go for something less formal – giving each member a tick list, with a description of the Change, an Accept/Reject/Defer tick box and a small space in which to write comments.
It’s normal and healthy to have the membership of the CAB meeting alter during the meeting, as different members step in and out according to the Changes under consideration (which you would have streamed accordingly beforehand).
If people don’t get up to leave when they should, remind them with a gentle ‘thanks for coming, that’s all for you’. Smaller numbers, with relevant interest, will help you hold a successful meeting.
Before the Meeting
Send a summary of what is going to be discussed, and your forward schedule of Changes due to be actioned over the next month (or so). Don’t expect everyone to read it – some will pay great attention, others won’t look at it until the meeting starts. You can usually guess how it will be for different groups, and so is something you can factor into your time estimates.
Have spare print-outs ready for everyone.
Stick to the Agenda
Be ruthless in steering conversation away from this week’s hot issue to the items on the Agenda.
After the meeting
Send a concise summary of the outcomes reached, and estimate when the next meeting will be.