The 4-Day Rule for Meetings
A client recently talked about the challenge of finding enough time to cover all the agenda items during her team meetings. I asked her how her meetings were structured and she said that because she likes to be inclusive, she prefers to begin each meeting by getting consensus on the agenda. She does this by polling the group and posting potential discussion items to a chart for everyone's approval. As she said this, she realized that by spending the first 15 minutes of each meeting this way she was losing precious time.
Good quality meeting time is at a premium -- no one can afford to use up the critical 15 minutes that this process takes. And, although it's grand to be inclusive, the on-the-fly agenda-building approach robs people of the ability to participate fully once the remainder of the meeting gets underway because they haven't had time to think, gather data, or bring meaningful back-up material for discussion.
When you want to have efficient and productive meetings and still have an inclusive agenda-building process, use the Ending Meeting Madness 4-Day Rule. The 4-day rule can be used as far in advance as is required so that everyone has time to come fully prepared.
Ending Meeting Madness 4-Day Rule
Day 1: Send the agenda-building email. You can seed the note with your agenda items along with the amount of time you believe it will take to cover each. Ask people to add their agenda items and time estimates. Here's an example:
“I'm building the agenda for our next ABC Meeting, that's scheduled for (date) from (start and end time) at (location). Here are the agenda items I'd like to cover, along with time estimates. If you have additional items, please send them to me along with your times estimates within the next 2 days. I'll then finalize the meeting agenda and email it to you on (date - which is 4 days from the date of your email).”
Days 2 and 3: Get responses from the group and build the agenda. Your original note should be clear about how much time people have to get back to you.
Day 4: Email the agenda. If you have information you'd like people to bring with them such as their accountability grid for meeting preparation add that as well.
At the meeting itself, bring copies of the agenda as handouts and have the agenda pre-posted on a white board or chart before people arrive.
Always be consistent. Send the note out on a regular schedule. For weekly meetings, you could start the process on Monday and end on Thursday. If you have a monthly meeting and you decide that a two-week notice is the way to go, follow that schedule each month -- fourteen days before each meeting, send out your agenda request.
What if people are late? Some people will get back to you after the final agenda has been sent out. They'll plead with you to get their item on the agenda. It's fine to accommodate these people once in a while. But if you do it as a rule, people will catch on and then always be late and always ask you to adjust. Adding agenda items should be an exception only, never a rule. When you're consistent with this, most people will fall into line quickly.
What if people resist? There will always be those who won't like this method. Some will complain, and others simply won't do it and will try to add an agenda item at the meeting itself. Here's a way around that: get group buy-in. Give the group advanced notice that you're going to employ this method and decide together how far in advance the agenda will be designed (14 days, 4 days, etc.). When you've got group buy-in, it becomes much easier to deal with the resisters.
(c) 2010 Denise Brouillette, San Francisco, CA. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be downloaded, photocopied, reprinted, or distributed electronically or by any other means without this paragraph accompanying it. www.LeaderXpress.com