What use is an Agenda?
Just what good is an agenda and where do they come from?
I ask this question as a result of the frustration and stress they cause and the time they devour in terms of meetings because of the way they are:
a) prepared and b) distributed.
First things first.
What exactly is an agenda meant to do? A straightforward question. I like this definition from http://www.businessdictionary.com
“Ordered sequence of items to be discussed in a formal meeting.
The objectives of an agenda include to:
- familiarize participants with the topics to be discussed and issues to be raised, (
- indicate what prior knowledge would be expected from the participants, and
- indicate what outcome the participants may expect from the meeting.”
On to the perfect agenda
So that is perfectly clear and as a result, the meeting should:
- be run in an order dictated by the order of the agenda and cover only those items on the agenda
- be centred around the activity of discussion run in a formal manner (minutes, managed and directed participation through a ‘Chair’ etc)
- allow those attending to be able to fully participate, nothing ‘sprung on people’
- have all the information necessary to achieve the objectives of the meeting
- result in outcomes that are indicated within the agenda
So why, (and this is where I get my ‘soapbox’ out), do we see so many agendas:
- presented at the last minute, even as you sit down to the meeting!
- have item descriptions so vague that people are unsure what is required of them
- that are rarely adhered to in the meeting resulting in a meeting not conducted in any order
- fail to prescribe the outcome required or the decision to be made
- that have AOB added and then go on forever.
So when I pray to the God of Managed Meetings I will be asking for all agendas to be promoted to their rightful place and given the degree of importance they deserve.
I will be asking that whoever sets the agenda understands:
- time constraints,
- sets the agenda against desired outcomes,
- provides those attending with an agenda in good time and
- fully describes what each item covers.