We Need Help Setting a Good Meeting Agenda

Last week, one of our Agile Project Managers was invited to a meeting to kick off a new work model that our client’s corporate office was rolling out.  The person who scheduled the meeting was tasked with using the model for the work their team was responsible for completing and was not fully familiar yet with the model.

The meeting started, and everyone stared at each other around the screen. No one spoke up to lead the meeting. No one projected their screen to share an Agenda. No one said anything for an uncomfortable extended silence until, finally, one of the senior leaders on the call said, “Well, what are we here to do?”

Unfortunately, this is an experience to which many of us can painfully relate.  The absence of an Agenda being driven by a meeting Leader can often lead to feelings of time, and money, being wasted for everyone in the meeting. 

At AJC, in Project Management Basics, we recommend that the person calling the meeting put together an Agenda for that meeting. Agendas do not have to be complex, and they can be standing.

Here is a sample Agenda for a meeting that requires input from multiple people to make a decision or determine a next step:

  1. Check In:* All
  2. Purpose of the meeting / Current Context: Leader, input by All
  3. Frame the decision / issue(s) needing resolution: Decision Maker or Issue Owner
  4. Discussion: All
  5. Decision or Summary: Decision Maker
  6. Next Steps/Action Item Recap: Leader

*Optional if the team has limited time or interacts regularly

Here is a sample Standing Agenda for a weekly Staff Meeting*:

  1. Check In: All
  2. Major Work Status (On Track / Off track): Work Owners
  3. Scorecard Review: Leader, input by All
  4. Customer or Internal Highlights: Highlight Owners
  5. Action Item Update: Leader, Action Item Owners
  6. Hot Topic Discussion / Resolution: All
  7. Next Steps / Action Item Recap: Leader

*Adapted from Traction by Gino Wickman and the Level 10 Meeting Agenda, pages 190-191

For organizations that are not used to setting Agendas for each meeting, or individuals who are not yet used to running meetings, it is normal to feel a bit awkward setting an Agenda and keeping the team on track.  One suggestion to ensure expectations are aligned prior to starting the meeting is to paste the Agenda into the Description area of the meeting invitation.  This will help invitees know what is expected of both the meeting and them.

The bottom line is that Agendas help ensure that the participants provide value to the organization (and themselves!) in the time they are spend together, which will help the participants feel like their time is being used in a valuable way.