Why You Should “Throw Down” in Meetings!

Several months ago, a coworker noticed I had a “throw down meeting” scheduled on my Outlook calendar.

“Is everything OK?” she asked, eyebrows furled.

I laughed, and realized I had some explaining to do! I told her “throw down” is slang for “fight” – those of us who work with troubled teens have heard about school or neighborhood “throw downs.” “Throw downs” also occur during hockey games; players literally throw down their gloves and begin throwing punches.

I reassured my colleague that she didn’t need to worry – we weren’t going to fight. However, we were going to “throw down” our programs and projects, try to break them, and then look for logical next steps.

Throw your own “throw down” meeting – I highly recommend it!

Here’s how:

1. Pick a Program or Project – Any project or program will do whether it’s working, struggling, or failing.

2. Throw It Down – Try to break the program or project by asking tough questions!

Good “throw down” questions include:

  • When was the last time we updated this program?
  • Is this program in alignment with our agency’s philosophy and goals? Why or why not?
  • Does someone else already have a similar program or project? Could we spend our time working on something that needs our unique, specialized services?
  • What’s not working? What are our barriers to success? How can we make the program or project better?
  • Are we working on this program just because it is easy or comfortable – because we have “always had this program?”
  • Is this program worth the work, money, or time we are putting into it? How do we know?
  • What other recent programs or projects are demanding more of our time? Should we let this project go so we can work on the others?
  • Who else should we include this program or project? Why aren’t we including them now?
  • Could we outsource or “in source” this program to someone that could do a better job?
  • Who feels burned out and wants to work on a different program or project?

3. Discuss As a Group – Talk about your answers as a group, or break into small groups and report back. Or, ask individual team members to email or write down their answers before the “throw down” meeting and come prepared to discuss. The latter may work better for team members who don’t like to speak up in meetings (see my “There is no “I” in TEAM… blog entry), or when the meeting topic is “touchy” or controversial.

4. Pick a Solution:

  • REWORK IT – Repair the program or project in whole, or repair some pieces but not others? Keep everything but put the pieces together differently?
  • CONSOLIDATE IT – Keep the best pieces of this program or project and combine them with another program, project, partnership, or resource?
  • DISCARD IT – Sweep it up and throw it away? (Admitting that a current program or project is outdated or ineffective is tough to do. The truth sometimes hurts!)

5. Set Goals and Objectives – Plan the best way to rework, consolidate, or discard the program or project, either during the “throw-down” meeting, or if you need more time, in a follow-up meeting.

Remember that “throw down” meetings should be more like a playground fight than World War III, so keep them informal, and don’t beat a program to death by drawing the meetings out. If you are the “throw down” meeting leader, encourage team members to “talk straight,” but make sure the discussion punches stay above the belt (focus on the program, not the people working on the program). Don’t allow people to gang up on each other, and make sure everyone stays focused on the meeting objective – creating stronger programs and projects.

In my experience, team members are usually eager to “throw down,” so these meetings are a fun and effective program evaluation tool. “Throw down” meetings are also a great way for me to gauge my staff members’ workload and better understand their talents, interests, connectedness, attitudes, and front line experiences.

Plus, it is fun to put “Throw Down Meeting” on my calendar — I mean, how often do we intentionally get to break things during a meeting?

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Hope Horner is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Donna Dyer

Love the idea of looking for duplication or even finding a better expert, but sometimes that’s seen as passing the buck or shirking. Our office re-evaluates our programming every summer, just as you suggest, but our organization is somewhat “siloed” so sharing across offices is not easy. Great post and food for thought!

Porsha Brower

If I should ever have the opportunity in the future, I will definitely pull a few insightful points from this article to employ. I’ve had similar meetings in the past and they’ve worked quite well…but of course, open participation is key, and it’s even more important that we’re honest about our projects, challenges encountered, and lessons learned in order to make the most out of such a meeting. And as this blog mentions, it’s also important not to take these discussions personally and to “check our feelings at the door.” If you establish “ground rules” to “throw down” fairly, respectfully, and professionally, this should be quite the strategic meeting!