Kill Ambigous Meetings With An Agenda

Meetings can drag through one rabbit hole after another, run late, go into the weeds, and after they are over nothing gets done. What happened? You went in with every intention of controlling the meeting and resolving issues. Read on for an ancient tool that will save your project unnecessary delays.

Your meeting agenda is what was missing. Go write one for your next meeting.  Seriously, I’ll wait.  Not sure how?  Okay, let’s write one real quick.  The agenda is the equivalent of a project schedule for your meeting, a plan, a set of goals to accomplish with a budget of time and resources. It implies you are going to control the meeting, btw. That means that you plan to set up follow-up meetings, send updates/notes, and keep track of the time.

Here’s an example of a simple agenda that works:

DATE: 2-3-2013
ABC-O-Tron Integration Status Mtg
2:30p CST, Einstein Conf Rm, 555-555-5555 x5555

PURPOSE
Management is not clear on the progress of the integration of the ABC-O-Tron. Meet with developers, product owners, and vendors to clarify impediments and needs. Determine impacts to schedules.

INVITEES
Lonnie*
Jim
Samantha
ABC Rep, TBD
Lee (opt)
Mike (opt)

AGENDA
1. Intro 2 min
2. Check that all the stakeholders are present. 5 min
3. Developer update – Jim 5 min
4. Product owner update – Samantha 5 min
5. Vendor questions – ABC 10 min
6. Review actions/takeaways – 5 min

NOTES

APPROVED
By invitees, 2-2-2013

That’s pretty simple. From this agenda you can tell a number of things. If you are invited. If you are optional. If you are responsible for presenting. If there will be someone looking for me if I don’t go.

Remember the first intent was to get feedback. This version would be the second, confirmed agenda because this document says it was approved! That’s right, silence is consent and I usually reiterate my rules of engagement in that first email. Nobody gets surprised or run over, but the project moves forward. You as a project manager (or manager or leadership) should send it out a day prior to the meeting for confirmation or updates. If you fail to give it that much time you are clearly communicating that you aren’t serious.

You need a sample? Ok. Write an email to accompany it like this:

From: Lonnie
To: Jim, Smamantha, ABC Sales Guy, Mike, Lee

Subject: Meeting invitation

Team, I just met with our CIO and PO. Neither they nor the campus team have a good feeling for progress.  Please read the attached agenda and either confirm or provide feedback.  At the end of the day 2-2-2013 automatic confirmation is assumed.  Also, please attend the attached meeting to briefly ask and answer questions about the integration.

Thank you,
Lonnie, PMP

(attachments)

Now go take charge of your meetings and get your project on track.  In future posts I will suggest some additional meeting tools, like how to deal with laptop distractions.

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