Meetings without Agenda and Background Must Die

Meetings can be crazy expensive and demoralizing when they burn hours without generating results.  Good design sessions, decision-making sessions problem-solving sessions start with the pre-meeting work. 

  • An empty meeting invitation is useless and a time drain. Invitees should decline them.
  • A meeting without any context about the problem or prior decisions is going to fail or be way more expensive than it needs to be. Invitees should decline them.

Invitations should always state the purpose, contain an agenda, describe the expected decisions that need to be made, and contain background content.

Everyone has to do their part. 

  • Organizers must meet some minimum bar for meetings to have any value. 
  • Attendees must read the invitations and the background materials.

There will be super secret projects where no agenda and no supporting information are provided. Those should be the exception rather than the rule.

Click to Enlarge

Productive meetings have inputs, processes, and outputs. We're talking about item #1 in this article.

  1. Meeting preparation, content, and agenda
  2. Meeting facilitation and management to the objective
  3. Capturing the meeting decisions and conclusions and open issues that still exist.

Actionable Agenda

People schedule meetings all the time without stating the purpose or the desired results from the meeting.  The bulk of the meeting invitations I receive contains no detailed agenda. Sometimes I don't even know the department that owns the meeting. This makes it impossible to know where I should accept or if someone else needs to be invited. 
  1. People should only publish an invitation if they have an agenda
  2. People should decline meetings that don't have a clear statement of purpose or an agenda
No one should send or accept a meeting that contains just the time and location.

Decision Context

People need to be prepared for a meeting to reduce context creation and documentation review time at the start of the meetings. I can't tell you how many meeting invitations I've received that contained no background information or discussion of the results of previous discussions. This means you are going to burn some percentage of the collaboration time on trying to bring folks up to speed.  That can still happen if they don't prepare but make it other people's fault when you are the scheduler.
  1. Meeting invitations should contain previous meeting notes.
  2. Invitations should contain problem definitions and content that enable smart decisions based on information. The invitation should provide a path for people to understand and participate. 

Applicability and Need 

Invitees need to determine if they really need to attend. Are they Informed, Contributing, or Deciding?  Meetings can often be declined if the invitee is only there to be informed where decisions and content are recorded for later review.  This can be tough if you use meeting attendance to build a better knowledge base across a wider range of topics.


Revision History

Created 2023 06


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