Actionable Agendas for Productive Meetings
Updated: July 28, 2013
What makes a meeting productive? In a practical sense, to be called productive, a meeting must be necessary, serve a purpose, deliver a result, and be an effective use of everyone's time. Every meeting 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 also takes some time and effort. But, the most efficient and straightforward means to reliably achieve "meeting productivity" is through an actionable agenda.
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).
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Strike a Balance
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We all spend a lot of time in meetings. That's how the work gets done and decisions get made. Make the most of every meeting, from planning to follow-up with all the easy to use forms found in the Meeting Agenda Toolkit.