“The weekly planning meeting ended. We discussed our individual problems (again!) with lack of time and resources and the boss had listened sympathetically. We spent most of the time brainstorming on possible solutions. But no decisions were made. There was no change of plans. No prioritisation. No solutions to our problems. No progress!” 

How many times have you come out of a meeting feeling confused, frustrated and maybe even angry because no decision was made, discussions were all over the place and the chair of the meeting did not intervene? 

When meetings derail it’s often because they have ended up in a ‘domain mess’. According to Domain theory there are three domains from which we act, speak, interpret, and describe the world around us. 

The Personal domain, where I’m communicating only from my own standpoint. There is only one truth, my truth! The second is the Reflection domain where I’m curious, trying to understand and asking questions. Disagreement is fine here because we want many ideas and concepts or interpretations to come forward. And finally, the Production domain, where we refer to rules, laws, principles, hierarchy, responsibility, plans, competencies etc. Here there is often only one truth. And it’s here we make decisions.

How can this help us in meetings?

We need to make sure that at any given time in a meeting we are primarily in a domain which suits the discussion we want. Reflection fits nicely with generating ideas but not with making decisions. There you need to be in the Production domain. If we want individual opinions, we obviously need to be in the Personal domain. It’s up to the chair in the meeting to guide the meeting through the appropriate domains. Applying the Domain theory to a meeting and steering the discussion consciously from domain to domain will make meetings much more focussed and effective.

So, for the dreaded planning meeting above the boss should start with listening to each participant (Personal domain). Then tell them which principles for prioritisation will be used (Production domain). Then ask them for possible solutions which will fit the principles for prioritisation and not only for themselves (Reflection domain). Finally, the boss should make a decision (Production domain). And everyone will walk away from the meeting with a clear sense of direction.

Speak to the team about how we can help you collaborate effectively as a team.