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The Effective Planning Commissioner

There’s Help for Dysfunctional Meetings

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One way to clarify opinions is to go around the table and give each one the opportunity to make one final comment. This brings closure to the discussion and clarifies ambiguity.

How do you reach agreement on planning issues that do not require a legal vote?

  • Does the chair look around at Commission members and, in a somewhat genial, informal fashion, seeing no vociferous disapproval, declare the decision made?
  • Is the person who speaks the loudest -- or the longest -- or last -- usually the most convincing?
  • How much are your decisions influenced by partisans of one side of an issue who manage to pack the meeting room?
  • Are you comfortable with the way you make these decisions or have a general unease that there must be a better way?

Consensus is an acceptable way to make many decisions, but it requires that participants generally agree. If you have set the agenda so you have time for the more important matters and have had a true dialogue, a sensitive chair can usually tell when and in what manner the group is ready to reach a decision.

One way to clarify opinions is to go around the table and give each one the opportunity to make one final comment. This brings closure to the discussion and clarifies ambiguity.

If you leave the meeting feeling satisfied that everything was discussed in a free, open, and responsive manner you will not mind if you did not get everything you want. You will just be inspired to try harder next time. ...

End of excerpt

photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

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