"Plan your work, work your plan"
In the last post I talked about attending meetings. The flip side to that is running a meeting. Sometimes you’ll go to a meeting and it turns out to be a waste of time. Minimizing that is an admirable goal, but you can’t always tell if it’s going to be a waste until it’s almost over. There should be no reason, however, to call a meeting that turns out to be a waste of time. If you call the meeting, you need to run the meeting.
Running a meeting well starts in advance of the actual meeting. You need to know what you want to get out of the gathering and then put a plan together that can get you there. The short version is Goal + Plan = Agenda. If you don’t have an agenda, you are overlooking one or both of its parts.
Next is the attendee list. With agenda in hand, this should be a breeze: it’s the list of people who need to approve of or execute your plan. As you look at each attendee on the list, you should know what it is you want them to do post-meeting. This should then be conveyed and committed to during the meeting. If you don’t know what you want someone to do post-meeting, then (once again) you’re lacking clarity in either your goal or your plan . . . or that person doesn’t need to be invited.
Now that the "plan your work" phase is over, the next part is easy: "work your plan". The actual meeting should be a breeze: work your way through the agenda, record any newly revealed information, ensure that everyone is clear on what’s next, and get commitment on all of the planned tasks. Keeping things on track is a lot easier when everyone knows where the track is.
If I had to guess, I’d say that anyone reading this has been to the type of meeting I’ve just described. I’d also guess that it represents a small percentage of the meetings you’ve attended. Further, you probably didn’t walk out of one of these thinking, "Wow, that was a great meeting!". Instead, you most likely forgot about it because it seemed to be a logical extension of your work. Contrast that to the "other" meetings – the ones the represent the majority that you’ve attended. There’s a good chance that you walked out thinking, "That was a waste of time".
Don’t be the one who wastes other’s time. Plan your work and work your plan or, as a very real but seldom used option, don’t call a meeting.