In our last blog, we shared some of the practices our clients often use to create meetings that don’t suck.
Today, we’ll share the systemized agendas we’ve developed over time to help organizations maintain productive meetings. Hopefully, you’ll find these useful as a starting point for your own team.
There are only three types of productive meetings:
Your own time management meeting process should require team members to think through what they hope to achieve in their meeting, using one of these three goals. If a meeting requires more than one of these goals to be accomplished, chances are additional meetings may be needed to optimize productivity.
Now that you’ve established the type of meeting, how can you make each meeting more efficient.
Agendas for meetings with the goal of solving a problem should look like this…
There are two types of Communicate Information meetings. The weekly status meeting/sales meeting and the announcement meeting (or what we like to call, the Kickoff meeting). Because it’s the simple sharing of information, this meeting can become easily derailed. We’ll address the Kickoff Meeting first.
Here’s how to keep it focused.
This may be the most common meeting in your organization. To review the status of a project or projects. Because it’s a weekly meeting, it’s the meeting few people plan for making it the least efficient for time management.
There was a time when we would slowly work through an entire list of projects, even though many of the updates were things like “project on hold” or “proposal out to client” with no actionable necessities.
These meetings are tedious. The tedium can cause you or your team to miss important milestones or never arrive at obstacles that may be slowing or stalling the project.
We’ve adopted a variations of the Gazelles Systems. Here’s our agenda. Give it a try.
Brainstorming is a unique type of meeting with it’s own unique time management challenges. Most fail for three key reasons:
Since “brainstorming” has always been loosely defined as a creative pursuit, many feel it should be spontaneous. After all, painters and musicians simply sit down, pray to their respective muse and begin writing, correct?
Brainstorming should instead be interpreted as a “problem-solving” session. So it’s important to download the brainstorming team with enough information that they can brainstorm individually prior to collectively.
Because of this ill-conceived definition, participants feel the pressure to “be creative” in order to create value. We eliminate this feeling of pressure by actually moderating brainstorming sessions utilizing a variety of exercises. With the support of structure and processes, participants feel they are a valuable contributor and they have the focus to problem solve creatively.
We also utilize our exercises and processes to ensure there is the right balance of problem-solving and actionability. Too many brainstorming meetings end up with a wall peppered with great ideas that never get acted upon.
However, brainstorming meetings can be utilized for a variety of problem-solving activities, not just key initiatives, so we’ll define step you can take to make them productive.
The most important step actually occurs before the meeting.
Assign A Facilitator: One person should be the master of ceremonies to make certain the agenda is followed and the focus stays on the goal. This person should plan the meeting and provide participants with all the necessary background information prior to the meeting.
Pre-Meeting. The most effective brainstorming isn’t a surprise. It’s important to encourage individual brainstorming prior to the group setting. Prior to our facilitated brainstorming meetings, we provide all participants what we call the Brainstorming Brief. It contains the background, perspectives and customer insights needed to brainstorm on the issue individually.
State the goal. Brainstorming meetings have the same primary goal: Generating as many solutions to a problem as possible. However, it’s key to clearly define what needs to be defined by the close of the meeting. For example: “At the end of this meeting, we will have three ideas to begin a R&D viability study.”
State the rule: Every idea is presented without comment, evaluation or criticism. Today, we’re staying focused on ideas, no decisions.
Write the rule on the meeting board: It’s important to refer back to the rule any time the meeting starts to stray.
Define the Why: Provide all participants with a simple, clear explanation of how this brainstorming meeting fits into the overall plan for the project.
Brain Stretching: Before any exercise, it’s important to stretch. It warms up the muscles. Stretch everyone’s brain muscles before you begin to exercise too. Initiate a fun, stimulating warm-up exercise. An exercise that helps break the organizational paradigms and get to know the group. We have several, so call us if you’d like some ideas.
Generating ideas. Keep the meeting interesting. Don’t let the brain muscles fall into a rut. This is accomplished by breaking the meeting into easy-to-manage chunks and utilizing creative exercises to keep their thoughts focused. Again, if you need some ideas for exercises, give us a call.
Use a parking lot. Create a space on your whiteboard to act as your parking lot. Conversations may veer off-course or into controversial territory, so if side conversations are occurring, stop and record the issue on your parking lot. You want everyone to recognize these are important issues, but you don’t want to derail the purpose of your meeting. Revisit later.
Filter. Now that you have stacks of Post-It notes on the wall, don’t just gather them and let them collect dust on the corner of someone’s desk. These are your raw materials and need to be hammered into an actionable activity.
Prioritize. Evaluate the rankings, attempt to reach consensus and prioritize the ideas.
Define next steps. If there are action steps to be taken, outline the action plan, assign owners to the actions and establish a follow-up review meeting.
Hopefully these ideas have been helpful for your organization. We’d love to here your ideas too. Please feel free to share processes that are effective for your company!