No Agenda? Seriously?

May 12, 2011 -- Sal Silvester

Are you tired of showing up at meetings and not knowing why you are there to begin with?

That seems to be the norm in most organizations.

The problem is that when there isn't a clear purpose and agenda for a meeting, people waste time and  energy endlessly talking around each other - never closing on decisions and moving actions forward.

Do you know what the Number 1 excuse is for not having an agenda?

"We don't have enough time."

People are too busy, overwhelmed, and overloaded.

And, that's exactly why they need an agenda to begin with. Without an agenda, you continue your cycle of wasting time. The agenda, when implemented correctly, helps ensure that that a team stays focused on its core purpose and not on things it shouldn't be spending time on.

OK, so how do you make an agenda work?

  • Make sure the agenda includes the "purpose" of the meeting. What are the outcomes you're trying to achieve? Are they clear?
  • Make sure that the most important priorities are the first items on the agenda.
  • Don't overload the agenda with too many items. It won't allow for enough time to engage in the dialogue and debate needed to make effective decisions and gain commitment.
  • Ensure the agenda is distributed well in advance of the meeting (at least 24 hours). This gives participants time to prepare. It also allows people who prefer to process information before speaking to kick-start the processing so that they are ready to contribute during the meeting.
  • Finally, keep this in mind. Having a "crappy" agenda is just as bad as no agenda at all. Make sure that agenda items are detailed enough so that people truly understand what is on the agenda. Provide pre-reads and supporting materials to fill in the gaps.

Stop wasting your time - and everyone elses. Create an agenda and make it meaningful. You might even stimulate creativity, innovation, and fun in the process.

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