Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 24, Issue 14;   April 3, 2024: Recapping Factioned Meetings

Recapping Factioned Meetings


A factioned meeting is one in which participants identify more closely with their factions, rather than with the meeting as a whole. Agreements reached in such meetings are at risk of instability as participants maneuver for advantage after the meeting.
A meeting in a typical conference room

A meeting in a typical conference room. The oblong shape of the table tends to cause participants in a factioned meeting to sit on opposite sides of the table, intensifying their allegiance to their respective factions. A less linear and more circular or even square-ish table would make for a more effective meeting.

Image by Christina Morillo, courtesy Pexels.com.

In "Recapping One-on-One Meetings," Point Lookout for August 9, 2023, I described a practice that can make agreements reached between two people more effective and durable. Immediately after the meeting, recapping the agreements in an email message from one party to the other clarifies the points of agreement. More than that, it serves as a future reference, and it can be a basis for future negotiation if either party later recognizes a need to amend the agreement.

The practice A factioned team is one in which
the participants identify not with
the team as a whole, but with
factions within the team
of recapping agreements can also be helpful after small, focused meetings of more than two people, especially when the meeting is what I call "factioned." Since the term factioned meeting isn't standard, let me first explain what I mean by it, and then describe the practice of recapping factioned meetings.

Factioned meetings defined

A factioned meeting almost always results when a factioned team comes together for a meeting. A factioned team is one in which the participants identify not with the team as a whole, but with factions within the team. For example, consider a group of hardware engineers and software engineers who are developing a control panel for a new washing machine. The control panel consists of both hardware and software components. Suppose that the members of the software team consider their first allegiance to be the software team, and the members of the hardware team, likewise, consider their first allegiance to be the hardware team. So no member of either team considers their first allegiance to be the Control Panel Design Team. When the Control Panel Design Team meets to search for solutions to shared problems, the meeting is factioned, because the team is factioned.

Factioned teams need not be divided along technological lines. Cleavages can occur across sites, professions, and positions in the org chart. For the present, though, I'm considering only those factioned meetings that satisfy two constraints. The first constraint is that there are only two factions, and no neutral parties. This simplifies the exploration with little loss, because although more complicated situations do exist, they're less common. The second constraint is that the two factions are more or less equal in political power. When one faction is significantly more powerful than the other, their interaction is more accurately described as a transmission of commands followed by acknowledgment, rather than a negotiation of an agreement.

With those two constraints in mind, whatever agreements a factioned meeting might reach are at some risk of instability after the meeting, as members of the factions maneuver for advantage. It is this source of instability that recap messages can address.

Recap messages for factioned meetings

A recap message is a message sent by one faction to the other following a meeting in which they reached an agreement. It summarizes the terms of the agreement. Recap messages can more effectively stabilize agreements if their authors follow four simple guidelines.

Act quickly
Distribute the recap message as soon as possible after the meeting, while the details of the agreements are still fresh in the minds of all participants. As time elapses after the meeting, due to phenomena like the Mandela Effect [Dagnall 2018] and others, recollections of what was agreed can morph towards more preferable agreements, and away from the actual agreements.
Compose the recap message jointly
If the gulf between the factions is deep and wide enough, any recap messaging can entail a risk of exacerbating the division. To manage this risk, delegate the task of composing the message to just two people, one from each faction, to compose the recap message jointly.
Treat compound agreements with care
A compound agreement is a package of actions that each faction agrees to execute. The factions agree to two elements. First, they agree to execute all actions in the package assigned to them. Second they agree that any amendment to any element of the package triggers a renegotiation of the package. The renegotiation protects the parties from unanticipated consequences of change, and it therefore enables everyone to relax a bit.
Manage previous recap messages
As time passes and events unfold, any recap message can potentially be overtaken by those events. Whenever the parties meet, they would do well to review past agreements and reconfirm, revise, or retire previous recap messages.

Last words

In whatever way you compose the recap message, it's most important that everyone involved in either faction have an opportunity to review the recap message. You might not want to seek approval by consensus, but if everyone has a chance to review the message, any errors of recollection are likely to be discovered. Go to top Top  Next issue: Managing Dunning-Kruger Risk  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!


Comprehensive list of all citations from all editions of Point Lookout
[Dagnall 2018]
Neil Dagnall and Ken Drinkwater. "The Mandela effect: Explaining the science behind false memories," The Independent, February 14, 2018. Archived from the original. Available here. Retrieved 14 February 2024. Back

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrendPtoGuFOkTSMQOzxner@ChacEgGqaylUnkmwIkkwoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

This article in its entirety was written by a 
          human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

This article in its entirety was written by a human being. No machine intelligence was involved in any way.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Effective Meetings:

FedEx logoFedEx, Flocks, and Frames of Reference
Your point of view — or reference frame — affects what you see, and how you experience the world around you. By choosing a reference frame consciously, you can see things differently, and open a universe of new choices.
The piping plover, a threatened species of shore birdUsing the Parking Lot
In meetings, keeping a list we call the "parking lot" is a fairly standard practice. As the discussion unfolds, we "park" there any items that arise that aren't on the agenda, but which we believe could be important someday soon. Here are some tips for making your parking lot process more effective.
2nd. Lt. Henry Martyn Robert, U.S. Army (center)What, Why, and How
When solving problems, groups frequently get stuck in circular debate. Positions harden even before the issue is clear. Here's a framework for exploration that can sharpen thinking and focus the group.
Senator Susan Collins of MaineDiscussion Distractions: I
Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently seen in meetings.
One human being comforting anotherExhibitionism and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
Exhibitionism is one of four themes of conversational narcissism. Here are six patterns of behavior that are exhibitionistic in the sense that they're intended not to advance the conversation, but rather to call the attention of others to the abuser.

See also Effective Meetings and Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Old books, the standard symbol of knowledgeComing April 17: How to Answer When You Don't Know How to Answer
People engaged in knowledge work must often respond to questions that test the limits of their knowledge, or the limits of everyone's knowledge. Responding effectively to such questions advances us all. Available here and by RSS on April 17.
Three gears in a configuration that's inherently locked upAnd on April 24: Antipatterns for Time-Constrained Communication: 1
Knowing how to recognize just a few patterns that can lead to miscommunication can be helpful in reducing the incidence of problems. Here is Part 1 of a collection of communication antipatterns that arise in technical communication under time pressure. Available here and by RSS on April 24.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrendPtoGuFOkTSMQOzxner@ChacEgGqaylUnkmwIkkwoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at X, or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.