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How To Move Operational Review Meetings Into Active Mode

If you’re a middle manager, it’s not surprising if the phrase “Operational Review Meeting”(ORM) fills you with dread. While they are slowly being phased out in many companies, these meetings continue to exist in conventional enterprises as a way for the upper management to understand what is happening at the ground level.

Typically, these hour-long meetings take place at specific intervals, based on milestones or events, and require plenty of preparation from middle management and their team members. Several team members are expected to attend these meetings regardless of whether they are required, eating away at the collective time of the team to do actual work.

Move Beyond Setting The Context
Much of the meeting is spent educating and setting the context for upper management (despite having sent preparatory material) instead of tackling any substantive issues. By the end of the meeting, the reporting manager and his/her team are not sure of what they have gained out of this meeting.

Doing away with the process, or expecting upper management to always be better prepared are long-term solutions that do not address the pressing need of middle managers. A different way of making such meetings effective could be empowering the middle manager with Bottom-Up ORMs, where they call for these meetings when they need to tap into the expertise of the upper management.

Flip Into Active Mode
By calling for a meeting and defining the agenda, the middle manager is able to be in charge of creating a productive meeting. Each participant in such a meeting has a reason for being there and know what they are expected to contribute. It also empowers the upper management, as they can always decide whether the topic to be discussed really requires a face-to-face meeting to address the issue. 

Time consumed by a meeting comprises not just its duration, but the time spent on preparation as well. When the upper management is unprepared or the meeting’s agenda is ill-defined, the middle manager often covers his bases by bringing in all team members into the meeting. The collective time that is spent on one meeting becomes colossal and is an inefficient use of resources.

A Double-Win
Empowering middle managers with bottom-up ORMs encourages them to put up their hand after they’ve tried everything within their scope to resolve an issue. In other words, it inspires greater accountability and productivity on the middle manager’s part.

It can be good for the upper management too - they benefit from a clear mandate so they can add value, instead of getting a generic update, which requires more time to be spent upon context-setting than problem-solving.

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