Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Staff Papers: A Great Substitute for Meetings

Many years ago when I left the headquarters of a major Army command in Washington, D.C., I assumed that the military's staff paper system would have its equivalent in the civilian world. That was a mistake.

Business and government agencies are meeting-happy. In some organizations they have meetings stacked on top of meetings. I've met individuals whose schedules often show them in two places at once because their meetings overlap.

This does not need to be. The classic military staff paper system permits a proposal to be circulated to relevant departments where comments can be attached. By the time the paper is given to the chief decision maker, the document provides a fine overview of what is proposed along with the attached concurrences, dissents or proposed modifications of other key players in the organization.

The system not only saves time, it also encourages more careful thought. Each contributor knows that his or her portion is in writing and is representative of the particular function. Their opinions are not off-hand comments at a meeting but are formal positions. As such, a well-coordinated staff paper is also a valuable piece of history showing the thought that produced a decision.

And just think, while those papers were making their silent way from one department to another, people were working and the number of meetings was reduced.

It's a great management tool.


Daniel Richwine said...

Your post reminds me of the completed staff work memo I read years ago, found here:

I have adopted this philosophy in my professional career and have found the incredible benefits to me and my superiors.

Michael Wade said...


Thanks for the link. The completed staff work philosophy is a great boost to excellence and team work.