Blog > Ditch the agenda

November 22, 2010

Beyond the Pale

Tips for better meetings

You’re half way through the meeting and still on agenda item two (of many). What happens to all those items that don’t get dealt with? They get added to the next meeting’s agenda, along with all the new items, creating an even longer agenda so that you either have to have a longer meeting, or carry some items on the next meeting. And so it goes.

Until somebody asks, “Why is this agenda item here?” and no-one can answer.

I’m reminded of a story I heard about cooking a ham. In this young woman’s family, it was the custom to cut off the hock end. Puzzled, she asked her mother why. Her mother simply said it was what her mother always did. Curious, she thought she’d ask her own mother. The answer? It was too big for the pan.

How many agenda items are you carrying forward just because that’s how it’s always been done? Let’s take it a step further. How many meetings have an agenda when it’s not really necessary – it’s just that that’s how we were taught to have a meeting? Or maybe you weren’t taught how to have a meeting, it’s just the way meetings are done. It’s habitual.

Ditch the agenda. If you must have a meeting, spend five minutes at the start of the meeting asking people what they really want to talk about. And what they are willing to take responsibility for.

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