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How to Create Actionable Agendas for Productive Meetings

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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.

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, ready for orderly execution.

What makes an agenda actionable?

To answer that question, you have to first answer "what is the purpose of 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:

  1. Relevant: The agenda must be sufficiently relevant to the established meeting purpose (what are you trying to accomplish).
  2. 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?).
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

Creating the Meeting Agenda

To save time, meeting agendas should be created with the use of pre-defined "templates".  To cover all the bases, useable templates go beyond the actual format of the agenda "document" to establish standardized approaches to agenda development, providing a "plug and play" structure for agenda planning.

In this fashion, meeting 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.

Actionable meeting agendas are constructed using templates of building blocks covering scope, requirements and 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 theyare 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).

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