When to Finish
There are several words in the Hawaiian language familiar to many such as Aloha, Mahalo and Ohana. There is another word pau that is used daily in Hawaiian conversations.
Pau refers to something that is finished, ended, through, terminated, completed, over or all done. Perhaps the most common use of pau is with a connected word hana. Pau hana refers to the time after work considered time for relaxation, informal socializing and enjoyment.
Hawaiian residents have a mutual understanding of pau and react accordingly so that when an event, meeting and/or workday is finished there is a collective exit and transition to another activity.
I introduce you to the word and concept of pau to demonstrate that far too often, from my experience, we are bound by time restraints rather than completing our mutual tasks. How many times have you heard at the beginning of a meeting that one objective is to adjourn at a particular time? How many times have you been in a meeting where the agenda identifies the amount of time each topic is expected to take?
I am not advocating for the elimination of time as part our deliberations and decision-making process rather suggesting that there is another way to structure our interactions to be more productive by using the concept of pau.
Such a shift requires the following agreements among participants:
- Expected outcomes of the meeting;
- Measurement of these expected outcomes answering the question how will we know if we are successful in our deliberations and decision-making;
- Confidence in the meeting process;
- Commitment to the process rather than a set of pre-defined time frames;
- Preparation to fully engage in the deliberations and decisions.
I am sure some will find such a meeting challenging compared to a more traditional structure, agenda and time allocation for deliberations and decision-making. But consider preparing for a meeting with a focus on a set of outcomes, an agenda without pre-set time allocation for each topic and agreement to finish when the objectives are met rather than a predetermined time.
As I mentioned earlier the reason pau works in Hawaii is that there is mutual social agreement that participants will collectively know when tasks have been completed.
I encourage you to try out this concept of pau in an upcoming meeting or two and see how it works for you and your colleagues. After all we know that each of us learns from taking risks and moving from our comfort zone, so let’s give pau a try and see what we learn, what can be applied to other situations and perhaps create a new meeting norm.