Although a meeting is a vehicle for resolving differences, it can break down when
the participants become mired in a disagreement.
Approach 1: Form a subcommittee
Ask for volunteers from the opposing viewpoints to form a subcommittee to resolve
the issue. This is a useful approach, because: 1) The issue may require extensive
research, which is best completed outside the meeting, 2) The people who caused
the deadlock will be responsible for solving it, or 3) The effort to resolve the issue
will test its priority. That is, if no one wants to spend time finding a solution, then
perhaps the issue (or at least the controversy) is unimportant.
Ask for a subcommittee by saying:
"There seem to be concerns about this issue. Rather than use everyone's time in the
meeting, I want a subcommittee to resolve this and report back to us. Who wants to
be on it?"
Approach 2: Ask for an analysis
If a minority obstructs resolution, ask them to analyze the issue and propose
alternatives. You can say:
"You seem to view this issue differently. Could you help us understand your position
by preparing an analysis of the issue with workable alternatives?"
As with a subcommittee, this approach will either uncover essential considerations
or test commitment. In either case, it moves the deadlock out of the meeting so you
Use these techniques to hold effective meetings by putting your work back on track.
This is the sixth of a seven part article on Managing Monsters in Meetings.
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