Introducing SPACER

Tonight I want to introduce one of the best tools available to ensure you have a good meeting or training class.

The technique I am referring to is called SPACER. It stands for:

Safety
Purpose
Agenda
Conduct
Expectations
Roles

It sounds straight forward enough but many people mess SPACER up and thus some think its value is little. They are so wrong. If you are familiar with SPACER please read on and see if my take on it is the same as yours.

Safety

As with all things, safety is first. If you will be visiting the shop floor you may offer up tips to ensure everyone stays safe (please wear safety glasses, etc.). If the meeting or training session is inside a conference room the safety discussion may entail what to do if there is a fire alarm, where the toilets are, etc. Please do not ignore safety or make light of it. I have actually seen some knuckle heads turn SPACER into PACER since they saw no value in discussing safety. To make matters worse, these were experienced consultants as well.
 

Purpose

How many times have you been invited to a meeting where you show up and ask, “What’s this meeting about?” If you answered “never” you live a blessed life. During this part of SPACER we simply explain what we are here for.

Agenda

No matter if you are holding a 1 hour meeting or 5 day Black Belt training session you need to let the participants know what the agenda is. You don’t necessarily need to go into great detail with this (unless you want to) but be clear enough that people know what to expect.

Conduct

Ever been in a meeting where half the people are on their BlackBerry’s or people are having side discussions disrupting the rest of the room? Talking about the conduct of the meeting is a great opportunity to proactively zap this. I highly recommend you allow the class or meeting participants come up with their own rules. If the meeting is going to be longer than 1 hour you should also note these rules down on a flipchart. Finally, the group should agree to some type of signal if they notice people breaking the conduct rules. This may be as simple as knocking their knuckles against the table.

Expectations

Allowing people to express their expectations can be a powerful tool. If you are running a training class this is a MUST! That way you are able to get a feel for what the students want to learn. Just like conduct, writing the expectations down on a flipchart is very important for extended meetings or training sessions.

Roles

Lastly, explaining the roles of the participants is the final piece of SPACER. You may assign someone to be the official timekeeper. You may consider assigning a parking lot attendant (where you list all the things ‘off topic’ and to be addressed later). Other roles may be the scribe (i.e. minutes taker), conduct enforcer, etc.

SPACER can be done very fast. I recently lead some folks through a value stream mapping exercise and we did SPACER in about 5 minutes. I have also allowed SPACER to take as long as 30 minutes for large classes.

A final tip. The next time you send out a meeting request in Outlook or whatever email system you use try typing out a short SPACER allowing people to know what to expect. Of course you cannot write out their expectations but you can yours. You will be amazed at how appreciative people will be. At a minimum no one should show up and ask, “What’s this meeting about?”

Until next time, I wish you all the best on your journey towards continuous improvement.

4 Comments

  1. Rafael Blé

    March 21, 2007 - 12:19 pm

    Thanks for the post Ron, I just shared it with my team.

    Regards,

    Rafael.

  2. Ron Pereira

    March 21, 2007 - 4:19 pm

    Glad you liked it! It is definitely a useful tool.

  3. Dennis Hagy

    June 9, 2014 - 8:35 pm

    Do you know where the SPACER meeting format originated? I first encountered in in 2000 when I worked for Allied Signal Aerospace and have been using it since. It is a very good tool.