Many dairy businesses today are utilizing dairy advisory teams as sound management tools for improved idea generation, enhanced communication and superior decision-making. However, some teams aren’t as efficient as they could be and become a social hour more than an effective business meeting. If you have a dairy team in place, take a minute to look around the table at the various team members and assess the cost of having that team in place. If you have eight team members meeting for 1½ hours every quarter, that’s 48 hours.
A 10-member team meeting every month generates 180 hours per year. What’s an hour of your time worth? $50? $100? $200? More? The cost of having your team at work in these examples range from $2,400 to $36,000, so it’s important to get a payback on that investment and make those team meetings count.
If you want to make the most of your team meetings, using a few simple strategies can go a long way in keeping those meeting productive, professional, and above all, profitable.
1. Evaluate the “structure” of your team meetings. Is there a strong structure in place for success, or a loose arrangement that can cause the team to stray off track? A strong structure uses a written agenda that is shared ahead of time so that everyone walks into the meeting prepared to work.
A strong structure uses a tracking system of brief meeting notes with important points along with an action plan for tasks to be accomplished.
Circulating those notes and action plan within 48 hours of the meeting and then again a week prior to the next meeting serves as cues or reminders for team members as they prepare for the meeting.
Finally, periodic checks on progress can help to see if your structure is working or if some changes need to be made to repair any cracks that may have developed along the way.
2. The next strategy to help make the most from your team meetings is having shared goals and the data to evaluate, troubleshoot and achieve those goals. Sports teams share a goal: to win! They look at game statistics, videos of players and a host of data, including information on other teams, to determine how best to win.
Dairy teams need to have well-understood and documented goals and then use data to evaluate and determine the best ways to achieve those goals. What statistics does your team share? Are they effective? Do you use benchmarks (just like looking at the others teams’ stats)?
If everyone on the team doesn’t see the cows and farm on a regular basis, photos and samples can be great for sharing key data. Shared goals and sharing data are key for successful team meetings and progress over time. Sharing the right data in the right format is critical.
In order to be most effective, graphs, photos and data summaries are important for use in the meeting. The time for review and analysis is outside the meeting, so any long, detailed information should be shared with enough lead time prior to the meeting and followed up with key data in “bite-sized” formats during the meetings.
3. The final strategy for making your team meetings count is setting standards for follow-up and accountability. This is likely the most difficult area to manage and one where many teams fall short.
Having a structure in place and sharing goals and data in a timely way can help team members be at their best during the meeting, but ultimately everyone on the team needs to understand the expectations and their various roles.
Establishing standards at the onset of team formation is usually best, but ongoing teams can “reset the clock” – to borrow a sports metaphor – by reviewing everyone’s role on the team and talking about how dissenting views are handled, how decisions are made and what happens when.
These can be minor issues (like starting and ending each meeting on time) or major issues (like how to best deal with lack of progress in a particular area – Do we keep spinning our wheels or set it aside and move on to something else?) What are the “rules of the game” for our team?
Standards are important so that when (not if) your teams hit those bumps in the road, you know how and when to correct the course to stay on track.
In summary, to make your team meetings count, try these three strategies: structure, shared goals and data, and standards for accountability. Dairy advisory teams have been shown to be tremendous tools for dairy farm businesses. Are you doing everything you can to make your team meetings count? PD
White is a marketing manager for Penn State's extension dairy team. For more information and Dairy Advisory Team resources, click here .