The Anna Karenina phenomenon builds on the first line of Tolstoy’s novel, which states:
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
When it comes to how an organization meets, we find the opposite to be more true. Unhappy organization are all alike; every happy organization meets in its own way.
The organizations that provide the case study examples for organizational excellence, cultural cohesion, and that achieve the enviable combination of economic performance and a healthy workplace have all discovered ways to meet that are both effective and tailored for them.
That said, those that enjoy a high level of meeting performance maturity rarely set out with that as a goal. Meetings are never the point; they are simply one tool amongst many that they use to achieve their goals.
Instead, these organizations have a clear vision and shared values which shaped the way they meet.
Consider how Ray Dalio, billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, shares his company's work to create an “idea meritocracy.” Their goal is decision making clarity, radical transparency, and aggressive effectiveness. The culture they’ve created is extreme — he admits some people find it doesn’t work for them and leave — and their performance is phenomenal.
When asked to describe how they practice this idea meritocracy, Mr. Dalio describes what happens in their meetings. His Ted talk shows video from a meeting, he talks about meetings in interviews, and he’s writing articles for CNBC about running better meetings.
Like most high-performing organizations, highly specific and intentional meeting practices are a major mechanism of Bridgewater's success.
Meetings are not the point, but they are the practice and provide the proof.
The Meeting Performance Maturity Model, first shared on this blog in 2017, describes the level of care and intentionality an organization brings to the meetings underlying their business operating system.
Many organizations just meet, leaving the how, when, and why of each meeting to the individual discretion of the people involved. Others, like Bridgewater Associates, design meeting practices that embed their values and drive performance.
Updating the Meeting Performance Maturity Model
The Meeting Performance Maturity model was originally described on the Lucid Meetings blog in June of 2017.
Prior to that time, the Lucid team used the foundational concepts informally in our consulting and development work. When we outlined meeting performance as an aspirational goal that can be tackled in stages, it made the work of improving meetings much more approachable for our clients.
We found that people were frequently daunted by the gap between the stories they heard from high-performing organizations and what they were experiencing in their own meetings.
A few slides describing meeting maturity in stages provided assurance that there were concrete steps organizations could take to get from where they were to where they wanted to be. They didn't need to tackle all the complex issues at once.
The Maturity Model also proved useful for people advocating for change within their organization. The cautionary tales of low-maturity organizations struggling to scale, and the approachable scope of tackling each incremental step, helped change agents secure the buy-in and resources they needed to get started.
The June 2017 blog post shared our internal model publicly for the first time, and included details to illustrate the various stages in the model with examples from our practice and from publicly available meeting research.
The original blog post can be found here: The Meeting Performance Maturity Model (and How to Measure Yours)
We considered a beta release. We knew the model was useful for us and our clients, but we weren't sure if anyone else would find it so.
Much to our delight, the Meeting Performance Maturity Model struck a chord with consultants, practitioners, and organizational leaders across the globe.
Since then, we’ve received a wealth of feedback and had the great fortune to put the model to test with an increasing number of clients. We saw where the model worked well, and where the original version didn’t hold up in practice. While the core concepts and the five stages of maturity remain intact, refinement was needed.
We updated the version of the Meeting Performance Maturity Model we use with clients in December 2017.
Then, we published this updated version and several additional stories about organizations operating at each level in Part 3 of my book Where the Action Is: The Meetings that Make or Break Your Organization. An official Version 1!
Today, we're happy to share these updates with you.
What’s New in this Version
Specifically, this updated version of the model seeks to correct these deficiencies in the original.
Problems with the June 2017 description of Meeting Performance Maturity
- Insufficient clarity between levels, especially levels 4 and 5.
- Insufficient adoption of maturity principles from reference models.
- Level 2 was just wrong. It stated that the organization’s maturity was dependent on the skills of a handful of competent people, which is fundamentally a statement of individual skill capability rather than organizational-owned capability.
- No publicly documented practices or benchmarks that organizations could use to independently assess maturity or plan appropriate improvement initiatives in the absence of a Lucid service contract. We were not sharing the cheese - which may be good for our wallets but isn't aligned with our values or mission.
The Version 1 update published in the book remedies these deficiencies.
Since the book went to press, we've also added clarifying language to make it clearer how the model components relate to one another. The current version, Version 1.1, includes these clarifications.
Where the original Meeting Performance Maturity Model (MPMM) made reference to the general CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) framework, the revised model builds more specifically on the People Capability Maturity Model® (P-CMM®) Version 2.0, which can be downloaded for free here (registration required):
The P-CMM has been in practice since 1995, with the latest update published in 2010. We are building on their 20+ years of experience in the MPMM in order to benefit from their many lessons learned. The first 100 pages of the P-CMM cover the core concepts behind this model.
Like the larger P-CMM, the MPMM embraces these ideas.
- Capability needs to be developed in stages.
These stages can be described as significant levels that, once achieved, make it possible to progress to the next stage. For example, it isn’t possible to consistently monitor and evaluate meeting outcomes (a Level 3 practice) until the organization consistently documents meeting outcomes (a Level 2 practice). Similarly, it isn’t possible to harmonize meeting practices across business units until after the business units have meeting practices to harmonize.
- Each maturity level can be the optimal maturity level for some organizations.
Level 1 maturity, where the organization relies on the individual skills and preferences of meeting leaders rather than a set of documented shared expectations, can work beautifully well in smaller organizations with a skilled workforce. At Lucid Meetings, we operate at a Level 3 because we’re simply not big enough to warrant Level 4 practices. Lower maturity levels do not necessarily lead to unsuccessful outcomes.
- There are many right ways to do meetings.
The capabilities an organization needs in place to achieve each level may be implemented in many different ways. For example, to achieve Level 2 maturity, an organization needs to demonstrate that “Meeting records provide evidence that the expected meeting practices were followed.” This might be in the form of formal meeting minutes, follow-up notes in an online system, or in updates to the sticky notes posted on the team’s wall. The specific form and contents of the records are determined by the organization.
In addition to these framing concepts, we also agree with the performance benefits to be gained when embracing the principles espoused in the P-CMM, such as:
- Self-managed teams
- Decentralized decision making,
- Access to training across the organization
- Reduced status distinctions and barriers, and
- Transparency through extensive sharing of performance information
(A note for our Future of Work and Responsive Organization friends, there's a lot of history here to learn from as you innovate!)
Unlike the P-CMM, however, the MPMM doesn’t seek to overhaul the entire organization. This model focuses narrowly on meeting practices and performance, which, thankfully, makes it much shorter.
The 5 Levels of Meeting Performance Maturity
The names of each level have been updated to address the problems listed above and to better reflect the performance achieved at each level.
Level 1: Individual
Meeting competency is not an area of organizational focus. Meeting success is dependent on the preferences and abilities of individual meeting leaders.
Level 2: Professional
The organization establishes professional standards for meetings. Meeting leaders take responsibility for seeing that meetings adhere to these standards.
At this level, meetings consistently have a clear purpose and documented results, although there may be no further standardization from meeting to meeting beyond these basics.
Level 3: Effective
Meeting processes are defined and implemented to achieve specific outcomes for each business unit.
Once they establish standard professional meeting practices, each team or business unit can focus on making sure the meetings they hold support the specific work they do. Level 3 organizations can successfully apply a meeting taxonomy to differentiate between meeting functions and pre-determine appropriate meeting structures. Units often adopt meetings described as part of brand-name industry practices such as Scrum (for software development) or Six Sigma and Lean (for manufacturing teams).
Level 4: Systematized
Meeting processes are integrated and harmonized across the organization. Systems are established to monitor and evaluate meeting performance data in support of continued process improvement.
The work of this level focuses on process improvement. With documented processes and outcomes in place, organizations can consider which meetings work well, how to handle areas of cross-functional overlap, and how to develop systems that support and automate repetitive meeting tasks (such as agenda preparation and metrics collection) that have been standardized across the organization.
Level 5: Optimized - World Class
Meeting practices embed the organization’s values and strategic priorities. Meetings are continuously improved to optimize strategic outcomes.
Level 5 organizations have achieved mastery over their meetings. These meetings often work so well that other organizations seek to emulate them. These are the organizations from which Level 3 organizations learn best practices.
The 5 Focus Areas for Meeting Performance Maturity
The assessment we conduct with organizations looks at practices in each of these areas. You'll find the specific practices for each focus area detailed in the book and on our official Meeting Performance Maturity Model resources page.
1. Meeting Design
The Meeting Design component looks at how well a group understands and standardizes their approach to the different kinds of meetings they hold. Low maturity organizations make little distinction between meeting types and no attempt to standardize their approach. High maturity organizations develop standardized meeting practices specific to each meeting function and tailored for their unique work context and culture.
2. Meeting Skills
The Meeting Skills component assesses the ability of people in the organization to schedule, convene, facilitate, design and effectively participate in meetings. Low maturity organizations take no special effort to recruit or cultivate these skills. High maturity organizations develop these skills across the organization and support skill development as part of recognized job functions.
3. Stakeholder Satisfaction
Are meetings in the organization considered enjoyable and useful? Do the people involved both within the organization and externally feel like the meetings are relevant and productive? Do meeting outcomes serve both the meeting participants and the people impacted by those outcomes? The Stakeholder Satisfaction component digs into this aspect of performance maturity. Low maturity organizations do not ask these questions; high maturity organizations track this information and use it to improve.
4. Facilities, Technology, and Resources
This component examines the infrastructure in place to support and measure meeting performance, with an emphasis on how easy the organization makes it to plan and lead consistently effective meetings. Low maturity organizations have little support beyond basic meeting scheduling. High maturity organizations use systems to streamline meeting tasks and records collection, and provide world-class facilities for conducting meetings.
5. Cultural Ownership
The Cultural Ownership component addresses integrity in the organization’s meeting practice. As many consultants can tell you, the easiest way to determine an organization’s true culture is to observe a team meeting. Low maturity organizations just meet, leaving the way that people treat each other and what they talk about to the discretion of individual managers. High maturity organizations walk their talk. They have an established code of conduct for meetings that applies equally to everyone, and they adopt rituals that expressly reinforce their stated values and priorities.
Putting the Meeting Performance Maturity Model to Work
Did you see above where I talked about sharing the cheese?
Now that I've shared the updated and battle-tested maturity model, let's talk about what you might do with it.
- Assess your organization's current meeting performance maturity level.
Review the detailed benchmarks in the book and on the official Meeting Performance Maturity Model home page. Look for evidence of the practices listed there. If you can't find any, then that's an area of practice your organization hasn't yet developed.
- Establish the business case.
It's hard to make a change if you don't understand the issue. Use your observations to build awareness in your team about how your meetings perform against the model and the opportunities for improvement.
For an even more impactful business case, review our meeting ROI webinar and use the ROI workbook to put real numbers behind the potential return of improving your organization's meeting maturity.
- Improve your organization's meetings.
Create a plan that will help your organization achieve the benchmarks in the next level of meeting performance maturity. You don't need to do too much at once. Each change will create ripples in how your organization works, and you may find that adopting even a handful of higher-level practices yields big rewards.
Of course, if you could benefit from our help on this journey, please get in touch. We'd be thrilled to work with you.
Join Us In Building the Future
The Lucid Meetings team will continue to innovate on both the model itself and on more ways to put it to use. You'll find all future updates posted here:
And as always, feedback is very VERY welcome!
We're sharing this model publicly so others can use it and contribute to its evolution. We feel really good about the current version, and we also know that as far as such things go, this model is still young.
If you have comments, feedback, questions, or want to get involved in further developments, please leave a comment below or email me directly at email@example.com.