A computer program product provides collaborative accountability in meeting workflows by including appropriate notification and endorsement of workflow events by an accountability network which includes supervisors in an organizational hierarchy. Workflow events may include invitations to attend meetings, delegations of those invitations, meeting attendance, and action items generated within meetings.
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Meetings are an important part of effective collaboration. Increasingly, meetings are being conducted electronically to bring together diverse teams and remotely located individuals. While the use of software can facilitate the organization of a meeting, it can also replace personal interaction which fosters accountability for meeting attendance and timely execution of action items generated during the meeting. Additionally, the impersonal nature of virtual meetings can lead to difficulty in ascertaining who is actually participating or what teams are represented. The ensuing sense of anonymity and social disconnection can result in a failure to follow through with attendance or delegated tasks. In many circumstances, failure by an individual to attend a meeting or carry through with a delegated task can result in the cancellation or rescheduling of a meeting, uninformed decision making, project delays, substandard results, and a significant loss of time and money.
A computer program product for providing collaborative accountability includes computer usable program code which sends notification of a collaborative request to at least one individual; accesses a directory containing a hierarchal structure linking the at least one individual to a supervisor; and then sends accountability notifications to the supervisor. A method for providing collaborative accountability for meeting attendance includes defining a list of at least one entity to receive an invitation to attend a meeting; defining an accountability network for the at least one entity; and sending out the invitations to the at least one entity; and notifying the accountability network of the invitation sent to the at least one entity.
The accompanying drawings illustrate various embodiments of the principles described herein and are a part of the specification. The illustrated embodiments are merely examples and do not limit the scope of the claims.
FIG. 1 is an illustrative screenshot showing a summary of invitations to attend a meeting and a method for creating a new invitation to attend a meeting, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
FIG. 2 is an illustrative diagram showing an invitee profile and options for creating an accountability network, according to principles described herein.
FIG. 3 is an illustrative diagram showing an alternative means for defining invitations to attend a meeting, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
FIG. 4 is an illustrative diagram showing a graphical display of meeting invitees, delegations, and meeting attendees, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
FIG. 5 is an illustrative diagram showing a record of action items generated during a meeting and accountability options associated with the action items, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
FIG. 6 is flowchart showing an illustrative method for providing collaborative accountability for meeting attendance, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
FIG. 7 is a flowchart showing an illustrative method for providing collaborative accountability for action items generated during a meeting, according to one embodiment of principles described herein.
Throughout the drawings, identical reference numbers designate similar, but not necessarily identical, elements.
As will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, the present invention may be embodied as a method, system, or computer program product. Accordingly, the present invention may take the form of an entirely hardware embodiment, an entirely software embodiment (including firmware, resident software, micro-code, etc.) or an embodiment combining software and hardware aspects that may all generally be referred to herein as a “circuit,” “module” or “system.” Furthermore, the present invention may take the form of a computer program product on a computer-usable storage medium having computer-usable program code embodied in the medium.
Any suitable computer usable or computer readable medium may be utilized. The computer-usable or computer-readable medium may be, for example but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. More specific examples (a non-exhaustive list) of the computer-readable medium would include the following: an electrical connection having one or more wires, a portable computer diskette, a hard disk, a random access memory (RAM), a read-only memory (ROM), an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM or Flash memory), an optical fiber, a portable compact disc read-only memory (CD-ROM), an optical storage device, a transmission media such as those supporting the Internet or an intranet, or a magnetic storage device. Note that the computer-usable or computer-readable medium could even be paper or another suitable medium upon which the program is printed, as the program can be electronically captured, via, for instance, optical scanning of the paper or other medium, then compiled, interpreted, or otherwise processed in a suitable manner, if necessary, and then stored in a computer memory. In the context of this document, a computer-usable or computer-readable medium may be any medium that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer-usable medium may include a propagated data signal with the computer-usable program code embodied therewith, either in baseband or as part of a carrier wave. The computer usable program code may be transmitted using any appropriate medium, including but not limited to the Internet, wireline, optical fiber cable, RF, etc.
Computer program code for carrying out operations of the present invention may be written in an object oriented programming language such as Java, Smalltalk, C++ or the like. However, the computer program code for carrying out operations of the present invention may also be written in conventional procedural programming languages, such as the “C” programming language or similar programming languages. The program code may execute entirely on the user's computer, partly on the user's computer, as a stand-alone software package, partly on the user's computer and partly on a remote computer or entirely on the remote computer or server. In the latter scenario, the remote computer may be connected to the user's computer through a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN), or the connection may be made to an external computer (for example, through the Internet using an Internet Service Provider).
The present invention is described below with reference to flowchart illustrations and/or block diagrams of methods, apparatus (systems) and computer program products according to embodiments of the invention. It will be understood that each block of the flowchart illustrations and/or block diagrams, and combinations of blocks in the flowchart illustrations and/or block diagrams, can be implemented by computer program instructions. These computer program instructions may be provided to a processor of a general purpose computer, special purpose computer, or other programmable data processing apparatus to produce a machine, such that the instructions, which execute via the processor of the computer or other programmable data processing apparatus, create means for implementing the functions/acts specified in the flowchart and/or block diagram block or blocks.
These computer program instructions may also be stored in a computer-readable memory that can direct a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to function in a particular manner, such that the instructions stored in the computer-readable memory produce an article of manufacture including instruction means which implement the function/act specified in the flowchart and/or block diagram block or blocks.
The computer program instructions may also be loaded onto a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to cause a series of operational steps to be performed on the computer or other programmable apparatus to produce a computer implemented process such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable apparatus provide steps for implementing the functions/acts specified in the flowchart and/or block diagram block or blocks.
Meetings can be an important part of effective collaboration. With increasing globalization and more powerful means for communication, meetings may consist of attendees from a plurality of teams or companies, remote locations, different time zones, and with a wide variety of expertise. Meeting facilitation software and electronic communications can greatly reduce the effort required to organize and attend meetings. Meeting facilitation software assists a moderator in creating a meeting through calendaring, scheduling, and notification services. The use of electronic communications to host virtual meetings can increase efficiency by reducing travel time and costs.
In many circumstances, the use of meeting facilitation software allows for the coordination of schedules, allocation of physical facilities, sending electronic invitations to various invitees, and the automated return of responses to the invitation. Meeting facilitation software may also allow for delegation of the meeting invitation by the original invitee to a subordinate, another team member, or a subject matter expert. In circumstances where the original invitee would otherwise be unable to attend, the delegation of meeting attendance to a subordinate or other team member can provide increased scheduling flexibility and more effective use of resources. Delegation to a subject matter expert would provide appropriate expertise to information and decision making within the meeting.
However, the use of meeting facilitation software and/or virtual meetings can aggravate lack of commitment by those who are to attend the meeting. The delivery of an electronic invitation can be impersonal and lack necessary elements of accountability that help ensure a timely response and commitment by the invitee. This problem can be particularly acute where meeting attendance is delegated by the original invitee to a third party. The electronic nature of the interaction does little to close social distance between the third party and the other meeting participants. Additionally, supervisors of the third party and meeting moderators may be unaware that the delegation has occurred. In virtual meetings, where the participants may be teleconferencing, video conferencing, or otherwise communicating electronically, the participants may have little social motivation to attend a meeting or carry through with an assignment. A participant may have never met the other participants face to face and may not have a social or professional bond with them. In some circumstances, it may be difficult to ascertain who is actually participating in the virtual meeting. During and after a meeting, it can also be difficult to identify who is responsible for meeting outcome success and subsequent action items. These factors can create a sense of anonymity and social disconnection results in a failure to follow through with attendance or delegated tasks.
For collaborative efforts within meetings to be most effective, those who commit or are assigned to attend the meeting must be accountable both for attendance and for assignments received during the meeting. The failure of an invitee to attend the meeting may waste the time of the other participants and the resources of the organization. In some circumstances, the full purpose of the meeting may be impossible to accomplish without the invitee. Where the invitee who fails to attend is a key person, the moderator may be forced to cancel or reschedule the meeting, causing further disruption to the schedules of the participants. The resulting time delay in interchanging information and making decisions can lead to project slips, a failure to meet organizational goals, and a reduction in profitability. Failure of a delegatee to follow through with action items generated during a meeting can result in a similar loss of time and money. In cooperative projects, the failure of a delegatee to perform a delegated task can cripple the entire effort, leading to delays and/or substandard results.
A key weakness in conventional meeting facilitation software is a failure to create the desired sense of accountability within invitees or delegatees. Although software applications reduce the effort required to accomplish the rudimentary organization of a meeting, they lack the sophistication to clearly communicate a task, the context surrounding the task, and the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform the task. For example, there may uncertainty about the person responsible for currently performing a task, the origin and ownership of the initial task, the delegation sequence of the task, or the completion of a task.
A solution is needed that provides for collaborative accountability through meeting formation, during the meeting, and after the meeting. By integrating accountability elements into the meeting workflow, appropriate accountability is encouraged among the participants and organization. The accountability elements become an explicit and active part of meeting execution. The accountability for delegation of invitations, attendance at a meeting, and for carrying out action items after the meeting is more clearly recorded and overtly displayed in various forms throughout the meeting workflow.
According to one exemplary embodiment, collaborative accountability is implemented through a software component which interacts with existing organizational management software. In an alternative embodiment, the collaborative accountability software could be integrated into an existing calendaring interface which is used to schedule and extend invitations to meetings.
The accountability elements could include an invitation module for defining and extending invitations, including notification or endorsement from supervisors of invitations extended to their subordinates. The invitation module could also provide an improved method of identifying potential invitees or classes of invitees and allows for more effective and flexible delegation of meeting attendance. In one embodiment, the invitation module includes options for allowing or disallowing delegation of meeting attendance and for defining a set of delegation rules which control the manner in which delegations can be made. The various invitations, endorsements, responses, and delegations are recorded and displayed to provide the context surrounding the invitation and meeting.
Various display modules provide a graphical representation showing the meeting invitees, delegations, and meeting attendees. By explicitly showing the status of each invitee and whom they represent, all the participants can recognize the presence or absence of the invitee and the area of their responsibility. This encourages accountability for attendance and execution of action items generated during the meeting. Action items generated during the meeting can be concurrently recorded, assigned to an individual or group, and various accountability options set to ensure that the assigned individual or group follows through with the assignment. A post-meeting report can be generated at the conclusion of the meeting containing a summary which includes accountability information.
Notification of various actions within the meeting workflow can be sent to an accountability network. The accountability network can include supervisory personnel who are responsible for the performance of the individual or group that received an assignment, other team members who depend on the performance of the individual, and other organizational members who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting.
FIG. 1 shows one exemplary embodiment of a collaborative accountability software component (100). The software component (100) may operate as a smaller part of an integrated calendaring and scheduling software program or may operate independently of any specific program. In cases where the software component (100) operates independently of other programs, the software component may be designed to interface with a variety of pre-existing programs on the user's system. According to one exemplary embodiment, the software component includes a menu bar (102) that allows a user to access various modules or functions within the software component (100). Any number of other menus (103) could be used to facilitate the use of the software interface.
In one exemplary embodiment, an invitation summary module (105) can be included within the software component (100). The invitation summary module (105) includes a summary of the invitations that have been generated by the meeting moderator and the status of each of those invitations. The status is displayed under the status column (115) with the associated invitee displayed under the invitee column (120). In this example “Carol Shelby” is the moderator (130). The status of the invitation sent to Carol (125) is “accepted”.
A new invitation module (110) includes a variety of fields which can be used to generate invitations by the moderator. According to one exemplary embodiment, the moderator could use a group field (160) to designate a particular class of individuals as the recipient of an invitation to attend a meeting. A “group” could describe any functional area within an organization. By way of example and not limitation, a group may be a development group, test group, or marketing group. Additionally, groups could be based on a variety of criteria including, but not limited to, criteria based on project, division, geography, etc. On the right-hand side of the group field (160), a control button (162) could allow the moderator to view the available groups within the organization. In an alternative embodiment, the control button (162) could also provide additional options for defining groups such as importing an e-mail list to define a group. A moderator may wish to use a group invitation when the meeting requires non-specific expertise in a particular area. By way of example and not limitation, if the meeting would require the attendance of an individual with a general understanding of common marketing practices within the organization, the specific individual within the marketing group who attends the meeting may not be critical. The group invitation could be received by a designated individual within the marketing organization who could examine competing scheduling and project needs within the marketing organization and then delegate the invitation to a particular individual within the marketing group. The group representative may be an executive secretary or manager who has an understanding of the overall needs of the marketing organization and the individuals within it. The new invitation module (110) may also contain a group representative field (165). In cases where there is more than one group representative within a particular group, the moderator can select which group representative will delegate the assignment. By way of example and not limitation, if the moderator knows a particular group representative has a vested interest in the topic of the meeting, the moderator may designate that particular group representative to delegate the invitation.
The new invitation module (110) may also include a specialty field (170). The specialty field (170) allows the moderator to enter a variety of specialties that are relevant to the organizational tasks that will be addressed within the meeting. By way of example and not limitation, if the organization is engaged in the design and manufacture of interior furnishings, an individual with expertise in “Asian Interiors” may be required to attend the meeting. Following the selection of a specialty, the moderator may be presented with the names of individuals within the organization to have expertise in that area. The moderator can access these names in a variety of ways including pressing the “View Matches” button (196), or pressing the control tab on the right-hand side of the specialty field (170). After reviewing the list of names of individuals having expertise in the designated specialty, the moderator could select the name of the individual she desires to invite to the meeting.
Prior to the invitation being delivered to the individual, it may be desirable to obtain permission from their supervising manager. A manager option (180) allows the moderator to choose if a supervising manager is notified of the invitation by toggling a radio button. If selected, a notice is then sent to the supervising manager, who is then to better able to allocate the time and effort of those who report to her. Additionally, by granting permission for the individual to attend the meeting, the manager also endorses the invitation. The individual then becomes directly accountable to her manager for attending the meeting. According to one exemplary embodiment, the actual invitation to attend the meeting may come as an electronic notification through the manager which emphasizes the responsibility of the designated individual to attend the meeting.
The new invitation module (110) may also include a product field (185) and a sub-product field (190). If the meeting pertains to a particular product, the moderator may wish to invite individuals with expertise regarding that particular product or a subclass of the product. By way of example and not limitation, if the moderator is holding a meeting with respect to a new kitchen product rollout into the Asian market, the moderator may designate “kitchens” in the product field (185). If the moderator has a particular concern about the millwork production of the kitchen product, the moderator may designate “millwork” as the product subclass field (190).
According to one exemplary embodiment, the moderator may have the option to allow the delegation of the invitation. For example, a manager is invited to attend a meeting but has other commitments. The manager may feel that it is important for a representative of his group to attend the meeting and may delegate attendance to another team member or other suitable person. However, the delegatee assigned to attend the meeting may have little motivation to attend the meeting. The delegatee may not feel accountable to the delegator, may have other pressing tasks, or the delegation may have been made in such away that it is difficult to remember. Without the delegatee in attendance, a critical group may not be represented, thereby preventing the purpose of the meeting from being accomplished. Consequently, those who created and attended the meeting may have wasted their time. The meeting must then be rescheduled and additional effort must be made to organize and attend yet another meeting. If decisions were made without the input of the absent delegatee, critical information may be missed and a poor decision could result. According to one exemplary embodiment, a radio button (192) could be checked to allow delegation by the invitee. In some situations, the software may imply permission to delegation an invitation, such as when a group invitation or product invitation are sent to the group or product representative. The software component (100) tracks the delegation of invitations and notifies the relevant parties. In circumstances where a task or invitation is delegated, the delegator retains the fundamental responsibility for the execution of the task or invitation. In circumstances where the delegation is an opportunity to attend a meeting and is rejected by the selected individual, the original delegator will be notified.
Another radio button (194) could allow the moderator to view/modify the delegation rules. In some circumstances, it may be desirable to limit the ability of individuals to delegate invitations to attend a meeting. By allowing the moderator to view and modify the delegation rules, the moderator can more closely control the creation of the meeting and who attends. For example, delegation rules may include a rule that allows delegation only within a given group, a rule that restricts the number of times that a invitation can be delegated, a rule that restricts the delegation of the performance of a task, or a rule that only allows delegation within a time period that is prior to the deadline of an assigned task.
Additionally, the software component (100) may support various automated delegation functions. According to one exemplary embodiment, various out-of-office rules could be defined to automatically delegate meeting attendance to an alternative person when the original invitee is absent. This could include a function which reassigns all pending meetings on an absent individual's schedule to a third party.
Following the identification of a class of invitees or a particular invitee, the moderator may press the “send invitation” button (198) to send the invitation to the group or individual designated.
The invitation summary module (105) is then updated to reflect the status of the invitation. In the illustrated example, a group invitation (140) has been sent to the marketing/catalog group. The status of the invitation is “pending delegation” (135). Another invitation has been sent to Li Chun Tseng (142), an Asian interior designer located in Hong Kong. The status box (145) indicates that Li Chun Tseng has delegated (145) the invitation to attend the meeting to Jong Sang Park (152), who has accepted the meeting invitation (155). A dashed line (150) could be used to graphically illustrate the delegation relationship.