The phrase “death by meeting” exists for a reason – most people loathe meetings. But they neglect that meetings are a crucial tool for collaboration. Getting the right balance of meetings in your diary isn’t easy. You want enough meetings to create alignment while avoiding sucking up all your resources with meetings.
A purposeful meeting agenda is a pivotal lever to ensure that every meeting is effective. Crafting the right meeting agenda takes time, but it’s worth it.
“The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda”
~ John C Maxwell
the meeting objective drives the meeting agenda
We often see every meeting as simply a meeting. But we forget that we meet for very different reasons. Each meeting should have an outcome; this could be a solution, a decision, or a long list of new ideas. Or sometimes, it’s upskilling a team or getting every participant onto the same page. None of them are bad or wrong – they are just different.
Different meeting objectives will require different agendas. While the outlines of the agendas may be similar, the more tailored the agenda, the more chance of you achieving your objective.
the common types of meetings
We’ve identified the five most common types of meetings. Each has a specific outcome or objective, and each should be approached differently.
The objective of the brainstorming meeting is to generate new ideas or make links between novel or innovative concepts. Idea-generating meetings are often loosely structured to allow for divergent thinking. However, starting by setting a goal to align everyone with the session’s objectives is still helpful. Start with individual idea generation before you dive into collective sharing, clustering and prioritising. The objective is loads of ideas, not a decision – simply stating this upfront will comfort most people that they don’t have to arrive at a decision.
The objective of a decision-making meeting is in its name – by the end of the meeting, a decision should be clear. Typically three elements need to be covered: first, present the proposed decision with the relevant context; second, discuss and debate the different perspectives and implications; third, make the decision and document the next steps. Many decision-making models and frameworks exist that can be helpful in the process, and the agenda can be adapted accordingly.
A problem-solving meeting is when a group comes together to solve a specific problem and find the optimal solution. The first agenda item is always articulating the problem that needs to be solved. This takes time – if you don’t fully understand the problem, your chances of identifying the right solution are much lower. Then, there should also be enough time dedicated to divergent thinking and brainstorming potential solutions. Lastly, the top solutions’ feasibility must be considered before reaching a final agreement.
Planning meetings are essential to align how a team will execute the company’s goals. We deem a few items of a planning meeting agenda as ‘crucial’ – defining the goal upfront, defining the critical success factors to the respective goals to help clarify the plan, and assigning each success factor to a person. Planning meetings might seem time-consuming, but covering these three items will save time in other meetings as owners check in on progress and highlight dependencies asynchronously.
We need regular check-ins because plans never go 100% according to ‘plan’. The purpose of these meetings is to monitor the progress of tasks against an expected outcome. The time should be used to track project progress and keep teams motivated and accountable. There are two things to always include – discussing issues and highlighting dependencies. The check-in should increase the speed of execution, and issues and dependencies – if not addressed – will slow us down. Be sure to note actions and accountable individuals following the discussion.
crafting the winning meeting agenda is worth the effort
While we are aware that many other types of meetings fill up diaries, if teams can start including the above items in their meeting agendas for these common meetings, the necessary alignment and collaboration will start to happen in a shorter amount of time, and the risk of losing manpower in meetings will become less of a concern.
We need meetings for collaboration. We need effective meetings for successful collaboration. Don’t discount the impact of a winning meeting agenda.
- Landau, P, 2020 ; Project Manager: How to run a planning meeting; Available at: https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/planning-meeting-with-checklist
- How to conduct a planning meeting in 5 steps; Available at: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/planning-meetings
- Scoon, N, 2021; 8 ideas to help you transform your team meeting agendas; Available at: https://www.polly.ai/blog/team-meeting-agenda
- Keith, E, 2023; Leading an effective decision-making meeting; Available at: https://www.lucidmeetings.com/templates/how-lead-effective-decision-making-meeting
- Maloney, S, 2021; 6 items to add to your brainstorming meeting ageda; Available at: https://hypercontext.com/blog/meetings/brainstorming-meeting-agenda-template
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Get in touch so that we can brainstorm a few solutions together!