Meeting culture

And here we thought the definition of “meeting” was tricky! :slight_smile: This also peaks my interest, because our sales team has recently started telling prospects that we help organizations with a dysfunctional meeting culture learn to get a grip on their meetings and use them to their competitive advantage.
People light up. “Oh, dysfunctional culture. I’ve got one of those!” But as you might guess, they all mean different things. That’s part of why it works for us, because everyone can self-identify. We then run them through an assessment to figure out what they actually mean.

I’m curious how you would define meeting culture, and which of the many distinguishing features you’d see as most telling.

I started thinking about meeting cultures in my PhD thesis but have unfortunately still not gotten anything published on the topic. I can send you my thesis, if you want, but to summarize very briefly, my approach was something like this: I identified four basic interactional constraints that exist in meetings and each of these can be handled/managed in different ways. Those four constraints were: frames, status, face, and sequentiality (I can explain more, if you wish, but now it’s too late and I need to get some sleep).

Frames (think of: agenda items that provide the frame for what can legitimately be talked about) can be managed in three ways (I called these ways “preparatory regimes”):

  • the regime of pre-structuration (the agenda is determined before the meeting)
  • the regime of evolving structures (the agenda comes from within the meeting and can be modified)
  • the open space regime (there is no agenda to structure the conversation, topics evolve like in ordinary conversation

One more example, so you get the idea (of this admittedly limited notion of meeting culture). The constraints of face (the need to make sure that nobody looses face) are handled differently by three different politeness regimes (those are inspired by the work of @Darcy_K_Leach):

  • the avoidance regime (any face threats are carefully avoided, i.e. people are very polite to each other and avoid controversial issues)
  • the regime of candour (harsh conflict is avoided, but it is encouraged to state differences in opinion)
  • the fight regime (conflict is encouraged and people are expected to handle criticism without being offended)

Oh my, I just remember that I describe this in a conference paper which you can find here:

In that paper, I tried to add two more dimensions to the picture. Not sure if it works out though…