The dreaded data dump

dumptruck_250You know the routine. It happens every month.

The committee gets together for the monthly committee meeting. The meeting gets off to a late start because the chairman waits for stragglers (not a good idea, and the subject of another article). The treasurer goes into great detail about who has paid for camp and who hasn’t, how much last month’s groceries cost for each patrol, and who owes what.

The advancement coordinator goes down the list of each advancement item that was signed off, who earned merit badges last month and how many Scouts haven’t advanced in the last six, nine, or twelve months. (Or in a Cub Scout pack: Johnny earned a belt loop. Jorge earned a belt loop. Rajiv earned a belt loop….)

Then, someone joins the meeting late and everything gets repeated.

In some circles, this could be considered too much information.

Certainly, it’s a good idea for everyone to know what’s going on in the unit. But with too much information coming at you, a couple things could happen:

  • You lose track of what’s important.
  • You tune out and don’t catch anything.

The monthly committee meeting is important for everyone to get caught up on where things stand, but it’s not a good place to just dump everything on the table and let people sort it all out.

Meetings are no longer about sharing everything you have, says communications coach Dean Brenner. The concept behind the old rule about more is better was to show that you knew your stuff; today it just means you weren’t careful enough to pare it down to the essentials.

But just because you present a terse report at the committee meeting doesn’t mean you don’t have to have details to back it up. The treasurer reporting “There’s fifteen hundred in the checking account” is fine, but there should be an accounting available. You just don’t have to read every last line of the check register or bank statement to the committee. By putting a little time into the report – say, for instance, the cost of the last campout, trailer repairs, summer camp deposits, hitting the high points – and having the books available to look at if anyone wants to, you can trim up the time it takes to give that report. The same applies to everyone else – saying “twelve merit badges were earned” gets the point across, and you can have a list available to distribute or read.

One trick I have used to speed things up is to move routine committee reports to the end of the meeting. Since people are usually anxious to wrap up by then, it tends to go quicker. And by asking committee members to provide a written report (in advance, if possible), everyone can have the details without slogging through them in the meeting.

Instead of just emptying your briefcase for all to see and hear, make your reports clear and concise – but be prepared to provide a pathway for more information if it’s needed.

Image: parkjisun / Creative Commons 3.0

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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