Actionable Agendas for Productive Meetings

When it comes to meetings, productivity is made possible when the designated agenda is created to suit the meeting purpose and fully documented for orderly execution.  Read the full article to learn more.  Also see:  Project Management Templates and the Meeting Agenda Toolkit.


In a practical sense, to be called productive, meetings must be necessary, serve a purpose, deliver a result, and be an effective use of everyone's time.  Every meeting, whether for planning, status, brainstorming or formal "off-site" should meet these goals, particularly in fast tracked projects, where time is such a precious commodity. 

Productive meetings don't just happen - you have to make them happen - and that does take time and effort.  For the best results, meetings have to be planned in advance according to the key requirements, goals and objectives.  The results of this analysis must then be translated into an actionable agenda, that can be carried out in an orderly fashion.

What makes an agenda actionable?  To answer that question, you have to first answer "what is a meeting agenda?".  At the highest level, meeting agendas are roadmaps for how meetings will be conducted. To be considered truly actionable (capable of achieving pre-planned objectives with minimal overhead burdens), meeting agendas must be purpose driven, reality based and results oriented, as defined by the following four (4) characteristics:

Relevant The agenda must be sufficiently relevant to the established meeting purpose (what are you trying to accomplish?).
Realistic The agenda must be achievable, considering the meeting purpose, time available, participants and overall project status (does the meeting make sense considering where the project stands?).
Organized The agenda must be properly organized to meet designated objectives, present required information, and conduct related discussions in a logical, orderly fashion - one that makes sense and provides clarity.  Agendas must also be properly structured considering the time available for the meeting and the time required to achieve desired meeting goals.
Tangible The meeting agenda must be produced in a tangible format, for distribution to all participants in advance of the scheduled meeting date. 

When it comes to fast tracked projects, meetings are considered one of the most efficient means of achieving stakeholder collaboration and informed decision making.  In order to make the most of available time and resources, meeting management procedures are sized to suit project needs and resource capabilities.  This is achieved as part of "fast track" governance planning.  (You can read more about project governance here).

Fast track standards call for a "plug and play" approach to agenda planning.  Agendas are assembled from pre-defined components, making it easier to achieve actionable results.  As agenda items are determined, they are plugged into a standardized three (3) part meeting structure.

Agenda "assembly" begins with an analysis of meeting scope, to clearly identify needs and purpose.  Scope is then broken down into manageable "agenda requirements", covering the various types of information to be presented, issues to be discussed, problems waiting to be solved, and decisions that must be made.  These requirements are then translated into individual agenda items, to be ordered in sequence as they will be addressed at the meeting.  Individual agenda items become actionable when they are memorialized in a formal agenda "deliverable", detailing subject matter facts, materials to be used, the participants involved (including those involved in presenting), and related preparation requirements (for meeting attendees).

Meeting Agenda Development Process

Meeting purpose and the related formality involved, will have a big impact on agenda development.  For example, committee meetings may require a more formalized agenda structure to allow for continuity of the committee work effort, motions, voting and related decision making.  See:  Organizing Successful Steering Committees and the Project Committee Toolkit.

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Leading Easy Conference Calls
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Building Actionable Meeting Agenda Infographic See the project fast tracking infographic. Top 5 Characteristics of Successful Committees
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The first step to a productive meeting is an agenda that matches the meeting purpose.  It's easy when you are able to break "purpose" down into manageable information, ideas and issues.  Learn how it's done with this useful IT-Manage infographic.
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What are the most important characteristics of committee success? Size?  Composition? Organization?  Communication? A documented charter?  Learn all about the "top 5" ways to deliver  committee "success" in this IT-Manage infographic.