How To Run Effective Meetings - The Buurtzorg Way

Joost
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- 4 min read

Making meetings effective is a challenge for many organizations—including ours. It feels our meetings often take much more time than needed. So, we are always looking for ways to make them more effective.

Meetings at Buurtzorg

Recently we recorded a video for our Corporate Rebels Academy. Madelon van Tilburg of Buurtzorg talked about the importance of effective meetings in their way of working.

She said: "Our team has been around for about eleven or twelve years now. We meet once every two weeks. These meetings are crucial. That's where you make decisions, where you find each other, where you discuss difficult things together. All team members attend, and the meetings follow a strict method to keep them as effective as possible."

Solution-Driven Methods of Interaction (SDMI)

So, what is this method? Buurtzorg teams use a method called "Solution-Driven Methods of Interaction" or SDMI.

This method was developed by Dutch consultants Ben Wenting and Astrid Vermeer of the "Instituut voor Samenwerkingsvraagstukken".

The SDMI method encourages Buurzorg teams to choose a facilitator for each meeting, and prescribes a strict meeting structure as shown in the image below.

article photo

The SDMI meeting structure

The SDMI structure has a few fixed agenda steps. Every meeting starts with discussing and accepting a text report of the previous meeting. Then any notices are shared and there is a round of any other business. If a discussion threatens to arise during this part of the meeting, people are asked to turn the item into an agenda item.

A definitive list of agenda items to be discussed is determined on the fly. Then all items on the definitive list are discussed one by one. Each is discussed in a fixed loop of six steps:

  1. The item owner introduces the question or proposal he or she wants to address.
  2. The item owner introduces the reasons for discussing the item.
  3. The item owner introduces the purpose for discussing the item. There are three options: item owners can inform others, ask for advice, or propose to make a decision.
  4. The process of informing, advising or decision-making takes place. Decisions are made immediately by asking: "Who is for which proposal?" If there is no consensus, the original status is maintained.
  5. With consensus, next steps are made by answering two questions: When will the decision be executed? And who will execute it?
  6. The item is now addressed, and the team moves to the next agenda item. Then they start the loop again from step 1.

Tips and Tricks

The SDMI method offers tips and tricks to keep meetings effective.

To determining the list of agenda items they say:

  • The provisional agenda should include agenda items that have been submitted prior to the meeting. Adding new items during the meeting is possible, but only if time permits.
  • Anyone should be able to submit agenda items. The member who raises the item is the 'item owner'. The item owner determines the duration of the agenda item.
  • People should be encouraged to formulate agenda items as questions.
  • A definitive list of agenda items is put together on the spot by the facilitator. The facilitator does not decide the items. He or she simply lists all agenda items on a piece of paper or a flipchart.

The SDMI method also encourages people to keep the meeting flowing by asking these questions during the discussion:

  • Who has a proposal?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • What are the consequences?
  • Who is for and who against, and why?
  • Any new or other proposals?
  • Any new or other arguments?

If the flow seems to be going out of the meeting, the SDMI method encourages people to ask the following to bring things back on track:

  • When things seem to become repetitive, people are encouraged to ask: "Do you have any other or new information?"
  • When meetings seem to wander off, people are encouraged to ask: "What is the relationship to the subject we are discussing?"
  • When there is chaos, people are encouraged to name one team member, wait until that person gets attention and ask: "What do you think?"

Learn more...

To learn more about Buurtzorg's way of working check out our Academy!

To learn more about the SDMI method, check out a small book by Wenting & Vermeer called "Self-management. How it Does Work".

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Replies (7)

jpmort

jpmort

Poor meeting are a big problem in the public sector. This is a great example of how to provide both structure, collaboration, clarity, and value.

| | 1 | Flag
Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson

Meeting hygiene and etiquette is important but only partly solves the problem of effective meetings.

Combining the buurtzorg style meetings with agile style information radiators that make flow of decisions visible for all are a really powerful combination.

| | 3 | Flag
Tree Bressen

Tree Bressen

If your organization is struggling with this, i recommend checking out Elise Keith's excellent book, "Where the Action Is: The Meetings That Make or Break Your Organization" -- see https://www.lucidmeetings.com/book. Cheers!

| | 1 | Flag
Katherine HandyWoods

Katherine HandyWoods

I love that you are raising awareness of meetings - they are full of untapped potential in most organisations.

I’ve spent the last 25 years working with and studying meetings. Despite the zoom fatigue, the rising levels of stress and the conflicts emerging during this sustained level of virtual working, very few people are truly open to radically rethinking how people meet and work together.

The real key lies in becoming skilled in relational work, in working with group dynamics and learning to design different processes to support the different types of work that groups are capable of. The systemic approach shared here is a great example, but this is only one way, and there are many more ways to get the most from people working together.

| | 0 | Flag
Miha

Miha

What about scheduling meetings. Do you suggest that you schedule one meeting after another without any time slots between them? Or do you prefer 10 or 20 minutes for buffer time?

| | 0 | Flag
Katherine HandyWoods

Katherine HandyWoods

I think the current culture of back to back meetings is really unhealthy, especially in the virtual world where we don’t get even a walk down the corridor.

I’ve been doing an informal poll amongst my clients and most people seem to have less than. 6h a week for time between meetings to think! Having space in our calendars is essential for us as human beings.

| | 0 | Flag
Katherine HandyWoods

Katherine HandyWoods

I think the current culture of back to back meetings is really unhealthy, especially in the virtual world where we don’t get even a walk down the corridor.

I’ve been doing an informal poll amongst my clients and most people seem to have less than. 6h a week for time between meetings to think! Having space in our calendars is essential for us as human beings.

| | 0 | Flag
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