I have a habit of inviting myself to client meetings if they sound even remotely interesting, and given a lot of my work is helping clients to develop their culture, any meeting with a load of people in it is going to be interesting, for lots of reasons other than their content. How interested are the people in the room? How much do they want to be there? Who sat at the front and the back? Who's writing stuff down and who's looking at knitting patterns on Ebay? How often do these meetings happen? Was it mandatory or optional to turn up? It's amazing how much you can learn when you're sat at the back watching a meeting. Even the way people enter and exit the meeting is telling in lots of ways; who waited to ask the host a question just to make their presence felt? Who snuck out early but seems to get away with it all the time? Of course one meeting is not substantive in research terms but once you get to 7 or 8 meetings you begin to see the patterns emerging. In fact a meeting and how it happens is like a tiny distillation of the culture. Theoretically you could attend 7 or 8 meetings and have the culture all wrapped up!
It's also good to look at how the organisation represents itself in the meeting, assuming of course it is a senior player running the meeting, imparting some top down information, instructions or sharing performance. Does the organisation or the organisational brand play a role in the meeting? Is it rammed in at the end as a page of; "and don't forget our values people", or is it inherent throughout the meeting? Does it inform how the meeting happens and how the information/news is shared?
I recently talked my way into a full day induction session for new employees in a client business and it was fascinating to see how the organisation pitched itself to new employees. It happened to be really well organised which was a credit to the very engaging and smart HR manager but it was fascinating to see the 4 new employees as they encountered their new employer for the first time. It was interesting particularly because I'm observing it through a brand/culture lens. How much of the brand should they have thrust upon them at this stage and how does that sit along side fire training and salary payment systems. I realise I've started asking questions here which is indicative of the thought process I'm going through right now and the fact I haven't resolved it yet.