Re: Meeting strategies--check-out
From: Richard A. Lynch (rlynchhawk.depaul.edu)
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 94 17:54 CDT
More kudos to Nancy et. al. for an excellent _and_ brief summary of
meeting structure. I've noticed, however, that several people have remarked
that check-out often gets skimped on -- the hour is late, kids are fussy,
tomorrow's workday is looming, etc.  I'd like to make an argument for
the importance of check-out;  I don't think it should be skimped on, and
feel it is more important than check-in/announcements.  

As has already been remarked, the main function of check-out or, as we
called it at my student co-op, "meeting review," is to let people clear
the air: remark on anything that bothered them in the course of the 
meeting, make sure misunderstandings didn't occur in the course of debate
(especially on personal issues), etc.  Check-out also serves two other
functions which are important in the long-term flow of group dynamics, 
however.  First of all, it serves as a very explicit institutional marker
for "the end of the meeting" in a way that a simple adjournment does not.
After everyone has had a chance to offer feedback on the meeting, each
participant feels like the meeting has come to a close, and not just 
stopped.  This serves to clearly demark "meeting-mode" activity from 
"normal-mode" interactions, as well as give everyone a sense of closure
for the meeting.  This sense, in turn, seems to facilitate a return to
normal friendly/neighborly discussions among smaller groups of people as they 
disperse, which contributes, on my view, to generally healthier general
interactions outside of meetings.  In the absense of a check-out, on the
other hand, I've noticed people tend to be much less chatty, a little bit
tenser, and more likely to disperse in ones than in groups.

Secondly, and relatedly, because a check-out takes *time* (usually 5-10
minutes, depending upon the number of meeting participants) in contrast
with the 5 seconds it takes someone to say "Meeting adjourned", it 
allows everyone to catch their breath and take a few moments to review the
meeting in their head, to see what, if any, comments they have.  This little
bit of time gives everyone a chance to relax, calm down and reflect.  To put
it bluntly, the fact that check-out does take time is an important part of
why it makes people more relaxed and friendly.

Two little footnotes:
I'd like to argue further that these five or ten minutes are well worth it,
no matter how late the hour, and that this kind of round-robin review is a
good compromise between those who feel the importance of rituals and those
who shun them.
I also think that these "institutional" benefits of check-out do not really
happen if one only uses check-out after very stressful discussions or debates.
This is because if it is only used rarely, it will be unfamiliar to most 
participants and they will not feel able to take advantage of the time to 
relax, reflect, etc.  Instead, it could be viewed as just another rehashing
of the dispute, rather than a healing.  So I think it's important for 
check-out to be on the agenda for every meeting, and not to be skimped.
After people in the co-op got used to meeting review (after a few complaints
about wasted time the first time we did it), it became something people
looked forward to, as the calm regrouping at the end of the meeting.

So I apologize for this long-winded rant on a relatively minor topic,
but who knows, maybe this will convince someone.

Richard
 
|  Richard A. Lynch              |  "The philosophers have only         |
|  rlynch [at] hawk.depaul.edu        |      interpreted the world,          |
|  DePaul Univ. Law Library      |      the point is to change it."     |
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