How To Run Effective Meetings – The Buurtzorg Way

By Joost and originally published at

Note from EE Magazine: There are significant insights in the comments to this article on the original site.

Making meetings effective is a challenge for many organizations—including ours. It feels our meetings often take much more time than needed. So, we are always looking for ways to make them more effective.

Meetings at Buurtzorg

Recently we recorded a video for our Corporate Rebels Academy. Madelon van Tilburg of Buurtzorg talked about the importance of effective meetings in their way of working.

She said: “Our team has been around for about eleven or twelve years now. We meet once every two weeks. These meetings are crucial. That’s where you make decisions, where you find each other, where you discuss difficult things together. All team members attend, and the meetings follow a strict method to keep them as effective as possible.”

Solution-Driven Methods of Interaction (SDMI)

So, what is this method? Buurtzorg teams use a method called “Solution-Driven Methods of Interaction” or SDMI.

This method was developed by Dutch consultants Ben Wenting and Astrid Vermeer of the “Instituut voor Samenwerkingsvraagstukken“.

The SDMI method encourages Buurzorg teams to choose a facilitator for each meeting, and prescribes a strict meeting structure as shown in the image below.

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The SDMI meeting structure

The SDMI structure has a few fixed agenda steps. Every meeting starts with discussing and accepting a text report of the previous meeting. Then any notices are shared and there is a round of any other business. If a discussion threatens to arise during this part of the meeting, people are asked to turn the item into an agenda item.

A definitive list of agenda items to be discussed is determined on the fly. Then all items on the definitive list are discussed one by one. Each is discussed in a fixed loop of six steps:

  1. The item owner introduces the question or proposal he or she wants to address.
  2. The item owner introduces the reasons for discussing the item.
  3. The item owner introduces the purpose for discussing the item. There are three options: item owners can inform others, ask for advice, or propose to make a decision.
  4. The process of informing, advising or decision-making takes place. Decisions are made immediately by asking: “Who is for which proposal?” If there is no consensus, the original status is maintained.
  5. With consensus, next steps are made by answering two questions: When will the decision be executed? And who will execute it?
  6. The item is now addressed, and the team moves to the next agenda item. Then they start the loop again from step 1.

How To Run Effective Meetings – The Buurtzorg Way

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Tips and Tricks

The SDMI method offers tips and tricks to keep meetings effective.

To determining the list of agenda items they say:

  • The provisional agenda should include agenda items that have been submitted prior to the meeting. Adding new items during the meeting is possible, but only if time permits.
  • Anyone should be able to submit agenda items. The member who raises the item is the ‘item owner’. The item owner determines the duration of the agenda item.
  • People should be encouraged to formulate agenda items as questions.
  • A definitive list of agenda items is put together on the spot by the facilitator. The facilitator does not decide the items. He or she simply lists all agenda items on a piece of paper or a flipchart.

The SDMI method also encourages people to keep the meeting flowing by asking these questions during the discussion:

  • Who has a proposal?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • What are the consequences?
  • Who is for and who against, and why?
  • Any new or other proposals?
  • Any new or other arguments?

If the flow seems to be going out of the meeting, the SDMI method encourages people to ask the following to bring things back on track:

  • When things seem to become repetitive, people are encouraged to ask: “Do you have any other or new information?”
  • When meetings seem to wander off, people are encouraged to ask: “What is the relationship to the subject we are discussing?”
  • When there is chaos, people are encouraged to name one team member, wait until that person gets attention and ask: “What do you think?”

Learn more…

To learn more about Buurtzorg’s way of working check out our Academy!

To learn more about the SDMI method, check out a small book by Wenting & Vermeer called “Self-management. How it Does Work“.

Featured Photo by Christina @ o