Monday, December 7, 2009

Beyond Agenda

By now it's pretty common to go to require that meetings have agendas (those links are the top three on google at the moment, but it goes on for ages). That's not enough, though.

Meetings need a purpose.

Meetings with agendas can still be a waste of time.

So how do you know if you have a meeting with a purpose, or just an agenda? There are a number of warning signs:

If you can't say what the meeting is for in under 2 sentences, it's probably purposeless.
  • Good: "The meeting is for triaging potential release blockers." This is good because you're accomplishing a necessary business and software release task.
  • Bad: "We get all the departments together for status." This is bad because "status" is not useful to anyone by itself. Yes, communication is good, but only when it's accomplishing something.
If a meeting has the same agenda for months, it may be purposeless.
This one isn't universally true (see daily standups, for example), but a meeting with an unchanging agenda can indicate a following of form over function. Good meetings dynamically handle changing circumstances and needs, and you don't get that if you're stuck in an agenda. It may also be a sign that the meeting organizer and/or meeting attendees aren't paying attention and is just going through the motions.

When you're planning how to spend your time, and considering whether a meeting is useful, ask yourself whether it has a purpose, or just an agenda. No purpose, no reason to go.


  1. And also; don't be afraid to excuse yourself from a meeting that no longer requires your precence!
    If a status fom you is required in a two hour meeting, see to that it can be delivered as soon as possible and then leave.

    It saves precious production, or procrastination, time. And we all know that time is money..

  2. Hello Catherine ,

    As you mentioned above i am with you regarding having a agenda for every meeting you take in you life, to be precise. Sometimes i have noticed that i have an agenda i make sure that its is conveyed prior to all the people who attend the meeting ,but you know several times it has happened that several participants go out of track of the agenda. I believe this is because of their understanding of the agenda or may be my lack of clarity in agenda.

    i have also noticed that people are very shy or may be always into there shell when it comes to you know discussing or actively participating in the discussions. From my side i have always encouraged participation from everyone.But sometimes you really feel they have to be proactive enough understand do you yourself handle such situations / how do you motivate them ?