wtorek, 29 grudnia 2015

All you need is... an agenda?

Many times I have heard the statement that “the more meetings, the less time for work”. I have to admit that I have said it aloud many times as well. Yet, I’m still organizing meetings and I’m still participating in many of them. And still sometimes it happens that I’ve got this sad feeling that a meeting I’ve just had was nothing more than the waste of time of all people who attended it.

“More meetings mean less time for work”. Is it true? Sometimes yes. When? In situations when you don’t see any progress after a meeting. When you are bored or exhausted after it.
When a meeting was only about talking and not about moving forward.

Today I will try to help you change this. To turn valueless talks into productive discussions.
How? You will be amazed that a well-prepared agenda can make a very big difference.

no goal - no meeting

Before scheduling the meeting finish this sentence:
“After this meeting I would like to …”.
It will let you think about the purpose of the meeting, it will help you determine who should be there and what materials should be sent upfront.

Sometimes it can help you understand that a meeting is not needed at all.
Maybe the purpose is just to summarize one of the previous meeting and agree that everything was understood in the same way? Maybe sending an email would be enough?

build your agenda

You don’t want to describe the problem at the beginning of the meeting. From the first moment you want to talk about a solution.
That’s why you should make sure that following questions were answered and all relevant information was shared at least one day or two days (if possible) before the meeting:
  • What does it have to be discussed?
    One short sentence. It will let the recipient of your email quickly find out whether they are interested in the meeting or not.

  • Describe in details
    Details are important. Even the most complex things are nothing more than a huge set of details. That’s why in the second step you should describe the problem. It will build common understanding.

  • Share all information that can be useful
    You’ve done research? Are there any important decisions that determine boundaries? Were there any discussions whose output have to be known? Share this information.
    Without the whole context participants can spend their time on thinking on solutions and ideas that were already discussed and because of some reason, rejected.
    All those things must be known. Thanks to this you will get more valuable input. Without repeating what was already said.

  • Share the goal
    What are you expecting? What do you need? What decisions have to be made? What obstacles need to be overcome?
    The answers on those questions will help invited people find out whether the meeting is important for them. Is there any value for them? Will it have any impact on their work?
    It also gives them information about what they should focus on. They won’t waste their time on unimportant matters.

meeting with agenda = less waste

What are the benefits of sending an agenda?
  • Participants are prepared
    They will listen if someone will talk. They won’t think about what they will say, because they already think it through. They had time for thinking and clarifying everything. They had time for understanding the problem and thinking about solutions.

  • Participants bring positive attitude
    If everything is known and people are prepared, they go to a meeting with the feeling that their presence can make a difference. They feel power and eagerness to help.
    Now, think what are the feelings in case of lack of information? They feel weak and unprepared. They feel uncertain. And they will build their input to the discussion based on such feelings.
    Is it really what you want?

  • No explaining “why we here”
    We can start with more productive activities - solutions and ideas. Everyone knows the “why”. This means that just after everyone comes into the room, we can start with the interesting part.

  • Less off-topics
    Everyone knows what needs to be discussed. Everyone knows the reason of the meeting. It lets us gather only the people we want - the ones that are interested in the result of the meeting. We all are driven by the same motivations. We all are focused on the goal. This decreases chances for off-topics.

is there any agenda?

In our project we agreed that you can reject any meeting without having a well-written agenda. No agenda means no reason to meet, no things to discuss, no problem, no challenge, no information.
You cannot talk about nothing.
Ok, you can, but you don’t want to spend your time doing it.
You don’t want to start the meeting with introduction, with boring stuff that will exhaust everyone.

No, you want to start with something challenging, something that really matters.
Well, you want to start with a conversation that will lead you to reaching a goal. And sending an agenda before the meeting will help you make a good start for this.