Agendas are a key to the success of any meeting. But only if they are designed to assist in accomplishing the work to be done. Too many agendas are vague, perfunctory things with a few topics and some standard updates listed. But a meeting should be held to get work done with the participants. If not, its just a waste of everyone’ time.
So what is the work of your next meeting? A clear agenda helps all come prepared to do the work. A clear agenda also helps the group stay focused, engaged and on-topic. Participants know how to contribute when the tasks are obvious.
Most agendas consist of several items to be addressed. Each item should describe the intended work or “task” to be accomplished. This description should refer both to the process to be used and the intended outcome. Here is what I mean.
For example, a typical agenda might list “plans for office space” on the agenda. Here’s a much clearer description of the intended task: “Decide on budget proposal for redesign of office space.” With this definition, a participant knows what the subject and purpose of the discussion is. They can come prepared and stay focused. A clearer task also enables the leader to think clearly about how much time will be needed and who should be present to accomplish the intended outcome.
For more information, see the tools I recommend for constructing more effective agendas in Leading Great Meetings: How to Structure Yours for Success. In particular, check out the tool for defining clear tasks, ones that are Focused, Actionable, Timely and Timed (or FATT) as well as related tools for agendas and timing.