Whether it is a weekly staff meeting or a monthly board gathering, there is often quite a lot to accomplish during a scheduled meeting. This can lead to an over-stuffed agenda or simply a “reporting” of events, activities and issues that does not take into account time for decision-making or problem-solving. For truly useful and productive meetings, it is important to allow time for discussion and creativity. Consider how information that does not need discussion can be shared in other ways to keep the meeting agenda from getting too full.
A timed agenda can be a good way of organizing a meeting for efficiency and it can also help to determine if enough time is being allotted for discussion and debate. For example, if a program or project manager only gets 5 minutes to discuss a week’s worth of work, it is likely that she will do little more than simply report the highlights. Couldn’t this be done in a written report or email? Getting a group of thinking employees together for a meeting CAN be a productive use of creative minds'”why not use them to solve problems or discuss creative decisions during a meeting instead of expecting them to simply absorb information?
For boards or committees that meet once a month or go even longer between meetings, consider what can be shared in advance or via reports and documents so that the actual meeting agenda can leave room for discussion, questions, and looking closer at problems that need to be solved. If “business” needs to be taken care of (i.e. a vote on an important matter, discussion about a new direction, potential threat, etc.) it deserves to be given a respectable amount of time. Consider putting new business and difficult decisions close to the beginning of the agenda while participants’ minds are sharp and they are still fully vested in the meeting matters.
If really big issues come up at meetings and there is simply not enough time to do them justice, consider a follow-up meeting or forming a task force to look at the issue closer INSTEAD of rushing or forcing a decision in a limited amount of time.