Ground Rules

By Martin Gilliard

Define or distribute ground rules at the start of a meeting to assist with the meetings smooth running.

These should encourage participation, help maintain control and keep things on track.

They can be developed together by the group or suggested for buy in. Do this during your first meeting as a group and re-use them again at each future meeting that the group attends.

It should not be down to one individual to enforce the rules. Remind the group that everyone is responsible for the groups behaviour / dynamics.

Usual rules include… only one person can speak at a time – for this there is a technique used in face to face meetings called pass the pencil. With this technique only the person holding the pencil is allowed to speak.

(Photo Credit: TravelGrrrl)

This helps enforce a second common rule, which is to disallow interruptions. Which also usually means asking for everyone to switch off mobile phones.

Other common rules include:

  • Set time limits on contributions - honour time limits and start on time. Don't wait for latecomers.
  • All ideas are worthwhile
  • Take issues off line that cannot be easily resolved. This process is often called a parking lot and is where you basically park issues that are important but not relevant to the topic. A parking lot is usually a large piece of paper pinned to the wall and acts as a visual reminder to all that says everyone's ideas are important.
  • Limit conversations that stray away from the topic in question
  • Use laptops only in break times. During the meeting show some respect to the speak by actively listening / participating
  • Everyone has an equal right to speak
  • Try to gain consensus within the group
  • Speaking across others or shouting will not be tolerated.
  • Stick to the objectives / scope of the meeting - simply note off topic items for discussion outside of the meeting.
  • It's Ok to disagree
  • Share responsibility for the outcome
  • Base all decisions on data wherever possible
  • Select the right decision rather than the quick decision. i.e. don't let your time constraints make you too hasty to get to your conclusions. Re-group if the decision doesn't seem quite right.
  • Maintain confidentiality of what is shared i.e. no gossiping.

The teams ground rules are living documents, so revisit and update them if necessary on a regular basis.

Ask group members to gauge the effectiveness of the rules.



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