I won’t attend meetings with no agenda. And I encourage everyone else not to do it, either. Waste of everyone’s time. And in case it’s not clear, “so that everyone can catch up on what’s happening” is not an agenda. -- Margaret Lukens, New Leaf + Company
One of the many things I learned in my years at HP and Agilent Technologies was the importance of a meeting agenda and meeting minutes - minutes that captured any decisions made, and any action items assigned. (Action items = corporate-speak for to-dos.) Those action items always had a name next to them, and a due date. There was also a section in the minutes called "parking lot" - for those items that came up in the meeting that weren't part of the agenda, but which we wanted to remember to address at another time.
So I was pleased to read Margaret's comments back in October 2010 - because now, long out of the corporate world, I'd found myself attending some meetings that didn't have agendas, and Margaret's words reminded me that this was a poor use of my time.
Margaret and I aren't the only ones who are pretty vehement on this subject. Here's Eric Matson of Fast Company; the "Schrage" he quotes is author and consultant Michael Schrage:
Get serious about agendas and store distractions in a "parking lot." It's the starting point for all advice on productive meetings: stick to the agenda. But it's hard to stick to an agenda that doesn't exist, and most meetings in most companies are decidedly agenda-free. "In the real world," says Schrage, "agendas are about as rare as the white rhino."Next, here's Michael Doyle in his book How to Make Meetings Work!:
We can't emphasize enough: Everyone should know what to expect before coming to a meeting. ... If all participants receive a detailed agenda at least a day (preferably a week) before the meeting, they will come prepared.And just today Seth Godin had a wonderful blog post - go read the whole thing, it's short - on what the ideal "meeting fairie" would do, including:
Ensuring that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose, and accomplishes that purpose, then ends.If anyone would like a template (a Microsoft Word .doc file, or a PDF) for a meeting agenda and minutes, send me your e-mail address and I'll be glad to send my template along to you. Then just customize it to meet your own needs!
Issuing a follow up memo to everyone who attended the meeting, clearly delineating who came and what was decided.
[photo by Kalsau, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons]