Through my last two columns, I’ve described the basics of the Fog of War (Fog) and how it can exasperate both personal and workplace decisions, creates a level of uncertainty, and limits a leader’s effectiveness. I also gave an example of the X pF factor of the Fog and showed how the density of the Fog is directly related to an individual’s hierarchical position in an organization, as well as the cross-departmental affects. Continuing the discussion of the Fog, in this column I will cover two preemptive solutions to help you avoid or overcome the Fog of War in Business.
Completely avoiding the Fog is impossible. From the moment you wake up until the time you go back to sleep, the Fog is an active part of your consciousness and acts as an inhibitor within your awareness and decision making process. However, aggressively learning how to control the Fog, or to preemptively limit its effectiveness, will give you the upper hand in this battle. Although there are numerous preemptive actions that a leader can take in order to help subside their Fog, implementing a Meeting Prioritization Scale (MPS) and conducting Pre-Wash Meetings (PWM) are a couple of the most effective actions.
Having and using a Meeting Prioritization Scale is an important tool to quickly disseminate priority expectations and requirements for individuals and resources before a meeting. When scheduling a meeting, have a priority level from your MPS assigned to every meeting and label the meeting with that number in your group calendar, or other scheduling process. This is so that each meeting member can quickly realize the expectations of the meeting before the meeting begins. At the beginning of a meeting, the facilitator should remind everyone of the MPS level assigned to the meeting to ensure that each person was made duly aware.
Your MPS will independently fluctuate greatly on your organization, department, projects, services, products, and countless other factors. The MPS needs to be developed at a departmental level (i.e.: Executive or Senior Staff and applicable departments such as HR, Marketing, Sales, etc.) and it needs to have 5 levels. Each level will correspond to a priority level that you created and it will being with the lowest level of priority 1 and end with the highest level of priority 5. Also, it is ok to have varying prioritization levels between departments, as each department’s work duties, culture, and working environment can and will differ from each other. It should take you less than 10 minutes to create a department’s MPS and remember not to over develop your MPS since it is meant to be an awareness level baseline for meeting participants. Within your department level, if you choose to sublevel your MPS, ensure that it is necessary and applicable.
Utilizing a Meeting Prioritization Scale will help prevent the Fog by motivating yourself and the other meeting members to be mentally prepared for each meeting. The members of the meeting should arrive with a fitting level of understanding, expectation, and this mental preparation will help focus attendees attention and attitude. This focus will help dispel and limit the Fog during meetings.
Another fantastic option to preemptively avoid or limit the effects of the Fog is to conduct Pre-Wash Meeting’s. A PWM is an effective tool for preparing for presentations, sales, and MPS level 4 and 5 meetings. Just like pre-washing your clothes before you wear them so that they are clean, free of dirt, pressed neatly, and ready to wear, pre-washing a meeting eliminates a lot of confusion, understand current data weaknesses, gives the ability to dry-run presentations with specific data, allows members to realize their meeting rolls, and when it’s time for the real meeting, it is more like a drama or acting rather than working through the agenda, rolls, and data.
Conducting a PWM is the same as conducting a real meeting, but limited to only key meeting staff (i.e.: facilitator, senior organization representative, and other essential meeting members). During the PWM, the members of the meeting run through the agenda in practice as they would during the real meeting, create notes for adjustments/additions/eliminations of data, and try write down questions and comments from the point of view of the other members (other companies, departments, etc.) that will be joining the real meeting. At the end of the PWM, each person writes down the questions and comments that they came up with on a white board for all of the PWM members to see. Each question and comment needs to be explained by the members so that there is a clear understanding and acceptance of their level of preparation. During the real meeting, the facilitator of the corresponding PWM will be able to properly control the meeting and the other members of the PWM will be better prepared to deliver their data, ask focused questions, and be able to respond appropriately. PWMs create a higher level of self-awareness per participant, effectively motivates by lessoning the tensions of presenting new data, and creates smoother communication transitions between meeting participants.
Pre-Wash Meetings are an effective way to dispel current and potential Fog for meeting members by pre-finding data errors, understanding potential meeting questions/comments, and they are conducive to a relaxed mental state of preparedness relieving stress of high level meetings. This level of preparation clears a vast amount of Fog for all meeting members, to include those who were not a part of the Pre-Wash Meetings, due to the influence of those who were key members in Pre-Wash Meetings.
There are a number of ways for leaders to take action in preemptively avoiding or dissolving the Fog. Having and utilizing a Meeting Prioritization Scale and conducting Pre-Wash Meetings are efficient methods designed for one of the highest stress producing environments within an organization, the meeting rooms. Understanding the simplicity of these two suggestions, their minimal action requirements, and practical mental preparation helps leaders to effectively and efficiently avoid the uncertainty found within the Fog of War in business. In my next column, I will continue to discuss the Fog and present a few methods for reacting to the Fog. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.