0 Making the most of meetings at work - Agendas for action

FrankNewberry2012"If you have suffered in silence at meetings where people have discussed matters at great length, but decided nothing, then maybe an action agenda is just what you need"

In the first part of this series I explained that, in workplace meetings, the Executive Secretary supplies the engine oil that ensures the smooth running of the 'engine'. The engine being the Committee or group of people who make the decisions that affect people in the workplace.

In the second part, I explained how a Meetings Facilitator can assist the Chair by keeping everyone at a meeting on track, and helping break a 'decision deadlock' by proposing something like a trial period to make sure the decision is not only taken, but that it is the right decision.

An agenda for action

Now that we have a Chair in charge, a Facilitator to make sure everyone has a say, an Executive Secretary to chase down our action points - all we need now is an agenda for action.

Sequencing for success

If you have suffered in silence at meetings where people have discussed matters at great length, but decided nothing, then maybe an action agenda is just what you need.

The action agenda puts the agenda items in a sequence that promotes decision making and action. It puts discussion in its rightful place - at the very end of the meeting and only if we have any time left. I call this ordering of the agenda 'sequencing for success'.

The Action Agenda

The action agenda of a meeting is in three main parts. The agenda items to be taken are separated into three categories. The categories are:

- information items

- decision items

- discussion items

I really like the time continuum aspect of this sequence.

INFORMATION may be old or new, but it is usually information about the PAST - right up to the recent past.

On the other hand, DECISIONS often need to be taken by people now, in the PRESENT.

Finally, once we have made our decisions based on good information, then we can take time to consider what we might do in the FUTURE.

Here are some examples of each category - taken from meetings:

Information Items - PAST

Information items can include:

1) apologies for absence

2) minutes of the last meeting

3) progress reports on action points from

previous meetings

4) important updates
5) announcements and notices from other sources

All these are needed so that the meeting can take everything into consideration when it makes a decision or takes action.

Decision Items - PRESENT

When the meeting has all the information it needs, it can make the decisions it has to make. Decision items can include

1) accepting the minutes of the last meeting as accurate

2) asking for more information (rather than wasting time with debate or guesswork)

3) deciding to go ahead with a suggestion

4) deciding against a proposal

Discussion Items - FUTURE

When the people attending the meeting have made all the decisions they need to make (at present), they can turn their attention to what needs to be done in the future. Discussion items might include:

1) Suggestions for a Christmas activity

2) First thoughts on what the organisation needs to do to comply with new legislation coming into force next year

3) Initial ideas on changing what we offer to keep pace with the latest trends

4) discussing how we can take the lead with new offerings to our customers and other stakeholders

Their meetings improve, their decisions get better

Over many years, I have seen action agendas repeatedly transform meetings and the effectiveness of organisations.

At first, people can resist having their contributions 'moved' to later in the meeting or to the next meeting. However, they soon learn that, with skilful use of the information/decisions /discussion sequence, their meetings improve, their decisions get better and they even find time to shape the future of their organisation.

So, good luck with your action agendas. May you be blessed with success in your workplace meetings.

If you are having problems and frustrations with meetings at work, and you would like some advice that is specific to your situation, you can get in touch with Frank directly via the contact tab of his personal website: www.franknewberry.com

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