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The Last Minute

“Thank God for the last minute,” I once heard someone say. “If it weren’t for the last minute, most stuff wouldn’t get done.”

In a lot of meetings, that’s when the most stuff gets decided. In fact, I don’t facilitate without a stated end time. This is because meetings without a stated end time don’t have a last minute. I have no leverage to push the group.

In a highly collaborative or “flat-hierarchy” group, the last minutes of a meeting can feel frantic. You know, time is running out, consensus is not clear, stakes are big, tensions are high, and no one by themselves is allowed to make a decision.

Hopefully a skilled facilitator or leader sees such a situation far in advance and plans for it. One technique is what I call Brake in Advance. If you have a high momentum of passion and energy in a group you can’t stop that train without warning; without lots of advance brake-pedal pumping. The concept is explained more fully at the link.

Another technique: I tend to get more pushy with a group as we approach “the last minute.” And I tell them why. I remind them of their meeting objectives. I tell them exactly how many minutes are left to achieve those objectives. And I essentially ask permission to be expeditious so we can get agreement in short order.

Sometimes you can see that you will not get group consensus before time runs out. When that’s the case — at the very least — either Name Leads or Decide How to Decide. You can read what I mean by each of these phrases at each of the links but basically: clarify next steps and lead responsibilities.

The last minute can be a wonderfully productive time and a great lifting of spirits and enthusiasm. Yet it can also be a great unraveling and a plummeting of emotions. Instead of fretting about the last minute, plan for it. Get great things done.

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