Actionable Agendas for Productive Meetings
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. Ironically, 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. (Get started with our free Meeting Agenda and Notification Template).|
Break It Down to Make it Actionable
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. It's all put together and voila! - an actionable agenda for a productive meeting! This process is illustrated below:
As the above workflow illustrates, 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).
The trickiest part to agenda planning is to balance the "time available" with the "time required". The most common perception regarding meetings is that they "run too long". You have to keep that in mind whenever time is an issue (particularly in fast tracked project environments). Here's a few tricks to keep up your sleeve:
Keep meeting agendas lean and mean, and suited to
Break-up lengthy meetings into multiple sessions.
Hold meetings at "high energy" times of day (usually before lunch).
If and when you can, hold lengthier, high value meetings as off-site meetings.
Provide meeting agendas and materials in advance so participants can be prepared.
Continue meetings "after closing" through assigned "follow-up action items".
Limit time spent in meetings to time best spent in meetings.
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|Practices:||Introduction to ITtoolkit Management Models|
|Fast Track Projects:||Basics of Fast Track Project Management|
|Featured Toolkit:||The Meeting Agenda Toolkit|
Collection (including Meeting Agenda
Fast Track Project Plan Template
|Articles:||Read more about meetings:
How to Lead an Effective Conference Call
Performing the Post Meeting Performance Assessment
Organizing an Effective Project Kick-off Meeting