Should You Axe Your Meeting Agenda?

Should You Axe Your Meeting Agenda?

If you ask the smartest and most experienced leaders what’s one thing that makes their meetings successful — most will tell you it’s having a clear agenda. But contrary to this popular point of view, we regularly see off-sites, strategy sessions and team meetings being held hostage by an agenda — rather than liberated by it. Here’s why.

When a meeting is oriented around an agenda, the focus becomes making sure that all the topics listed are talked about in the time they have been allotted.

This means that if item X is scheduled to be discussed for 15 minutes, from 10:15 to 10:30, that’s what happens. But what if item X turns out to need an hour of conversation? What if the dialogue around item X is so engaging, compelling and important that people want to keep chatting about it beyond the allotted time frame?

In most cases, the discussion, regardless of how important or meaningful, will be tabled to a later date to make way for the other scheduled items on the agenda.

The opposite is also true. If item X is slated for a 15-minute discussion, but really only requires five minutes, rarely will the agenda be adjusted. In most cases, the team members will simply fill up the time talking about the less important aspects of the item until the designated time is up.

So instead of having your meetings be oriented around a set agenda, with topics and the time allotted to them, we suggest orienting your meetings around the outcomes and results you want to accomplish.

The difference looks like this:

In an agenda-driven meeting, you have 30 minutes allocated to discussing the budget.

In an outcome-oriented meeting, you declare the objective of having everyone agree on how to reduce the budget by 15%.

So the next time you want to have a powerful meeting oriented around results, ask yourself:

  1. What are the specific outcomes I want this meeting to achieve?
  2. What results do I want to come out of this meeting?
  3. What are the most important results I want to walk away having accomplished?

How have agendas impacted your meetings? I would love to hear your comments.

Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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