Learning from our Clients

Last week my feet never touched the ground. Sunday night saw me in Manchester and Monday I visited a client in Speke, Liverpool. On Tuesday, after an early start (4am), I visited a new partner company in Budapest only to return to the UK that evening so that I could be at a client site in Cambridge at 9am on Wednesday. After meetings all day Wednesday and a late dinner with colleagues from New York and Washington DC we had a 4am Thursday pick up in order to catch a flight to Amsterdam to visit a client in Nijmegem followed by another late dinner and a partner visit in Amsterdam all day Friday.

During the client visit in Nijmegen I noticed a sign on the conference room wall entitled “Operating Agreements.” The sign contained a list of 11 items that my client’s staff had accepted as the appropriate behaviour for all meetings. Some of these items were fairly obvious but others had clearly been thought through, discussed, perhaps negotiated, but ultimately accepted into the culture of the organisation.

Having remarked on the list, I asked if it would be permissible to take a photograph  of the sign so that I could use the concepts at my company Axispoint. To my delight, my client gave me a copy of the sign saying that he had found the agreements to be invaluable.

I share them here:

  1. Meetings start and stop on time
  2. There must be a clear purpose for every meeting
  3. Everybody contributes to form the agenda
  4. Everyone actively listens to others
  5. Everyone is encouraged to give feedback, regardless of position
  6. It is vital to draw the boundaries and know the costs
  7. Be honest, develop trust and stand behind your colleagues
  8. Openly function as a team — committed to the same goals
  9. Manage and report by exception
  10. Give “heads-up”; avoid surprises
  11. Acknowledge achievement; show appreciation

It is all too easy to get caught up in the fast pace of work. You can see from my schedule last week that activity levels at Axispoint are extremely and consistently high. I believe that the Operating agreements listed  above will help focus our energy on the things that need to get done each and every day. I will be introducing them to the team over the next few weeks and attempting to role them into the meeting culture at Axispoint. We all attend so many meetings that it important to ensure everyone attending adds value.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone that has experience of similar operating agreements. Which ones worked and why? Which ones are a waste of time and why? Feedback is much appreciated.

About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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