Last week I gave you the 8-Step Best Practices for Effective Meetings, and made some strong comments on how ineffective most meetings are, and what a waste of time they are. The feedback we have received validated the need for an effective meeting outline.
This week I am going to complete the Best Practices for Effective Meetings, and again direct you to our podcast for a more complete discussion.
Let’s review the 8-Step plan
- Pre-Publish An Agenda
- Use a Facilitator
- Start On Time
- Stick To Your Agenda
- Use a Kitchen Counter
- Fix Responsibilities
- Finish On Time
- Publish Notes
Stick to Your Agenda
Sticking to the agenda is probably the most difficult part of running an effective meeting. If you have had the opportunity to listen to our podcasts you know that the agenda not only details what specifically will be discussed at the meeting, but it also gives very specific time slots for each agenda item. This obviously requires input from the various presenters as to how much time they need. Sticking to the agenda requires the meeting facilitator to keep the presenters on time. I know that can be difficult, particularly if one of the presenters is your boss (or your boss’ boss). The facilitator is the enforcer, and everyone should respect them.
One helpful hint is to use reminders. The facilitator should help the presenter by reminding, “You’ve got two minutes…” or “Bob, you’ve got one minute left.” And then finally, “I’m sorry Bob, but we have to move on. Let’s put that on the Kitchen Counter.”
Use a Kitchen Counter
When I am working on something around the house and need a break, or it just doesn’t get finished and I will get back to it later, where does it go? The Kitchen Counter.
The Kitchen Counter is the place for important items that come up but are not on the agenda. Ideally these items can be posted on the wall for everyone to see. They should be recorded by the facilitator or the assigned note-taker. The purpose of the Kitchen Counter is to avoid long non-agenda tangents and to keep the agenda timeline on track.
The final 5 minutes of the agenda should be reserved for the Kitchen Counter. During that time you should decide whether to ignore the item, discuss and decide on the item right then, or table the item to the next meeting. The Kitchen Counter should Always be the last part of the meeting.
If there is nothing on the Kitchen Counter you might actually get out a few minutes early.
After sitting in on several meetings with one of my clients I realized that they were having meeting after meeting without nailing down exactly what action would be taken on each agenda item, who would be responsible for that action, and when that action might be expected. Once we started integrating this one step into their meetings, things actually got done, and they have about half the meetings they were having before.
“Terry, you’re going to brief us at next week’s meeting on the data issues and how to solve them, right?”
Finish on Time
This step is just as important as consistently starting on time. Remember that you are training your culture on how to behave, and both starting and ending on time help to engrain that we will be strictly adhering to the agenda. It also shows that we will demonstrate respect to those that arrived on time, and we will honor our word (and your schedule) by ending the meetings when promised.
You may only finish late if:
You ask 5-10 minutes before your scheduled end time
You state a new end time that you commit to
You don’t make a habit of it. It is the exception; not the rule
I cannot overstress the importance of publishing notes of the meeting. First, there will be some that were not able to attend, and this will bring them up to speed. Second, based on your pre-published agenda, there might be some that needed to know the outcomes, but did not need to carve out the time for the meeting, and these notes will inform them. And finally, these published notes will keep everyone involved and aware of the fixed responsibilities. These should be written and distributed as soon as possible with the published notes taken right on the agenda. This ensures that every item is addressed as it was in the meeting.
Well, that’s it for our 8-Step Best Practices. I know that some of you are absolutely over-whelmed, and some of you are pretty close already. Remember, if this is a huge leap for you, try integrating a couple of the steps at first, and working the others in over time. Start with the agenda and the timeline. The timeline will be new for many of you, and establishing it up front will give you some control.
Best of luck! Let me know how it goes.