The problem: We had way too much to get through, and we weren't getting through it all! Additionally, we didn't have a very good way of organizing or prioritizing items, so sometimes we would get caught up talking about something that was less important and run out of time for the things that we really needed to deal with.
The solution: Although I tend to prefer a flexible approach, it became clear that we needed better structures for our meetings. We've been able to implement a couple of things that have helped. To be honest, we still have trouble getting through all of our work, and the system is not perfect, but it is better...and we know we will continue to tweak and improve!
So, what structures do you use?
- We have one person labeled as the "agenda builder" (responsible for building the agenda prior to the meeting) and one person as the "facilitator/timekeeper". In the agenda, we list an amount of time for each item and the facilitator sets a timer during the meeting. When the timer goes off, we either decide to allocate more time to the item (and take it away from other things) or decide to pick it up again next week.
- The agenda is on a spreadsheet, with columns for links, notes, and follow-up needed. There is also a "cover page" of links & important info (such as our norms & agreements) that we refer to often.
- We have sections for "quick work" (mostly FYIs that somebody might want to say a few words about), "immediate decisions" (things that need to be decided or done but won't take more than a few minutes), and "discussion topics" (things that need more exploration & discussion). The agenda builder is responsible for placing things in the appropriate categories.
- We begin each meeting with a 5-minute structure where each person says what their top priority is for the meeting that day. This allows us to all be aware of the things that are really burning on people's minds that we need to get to!
- We reserve the last 10 minutes of the meeting for our closing structure, no matter where we are. During this time, we circle back to everyone's top priority to make sure we addressed it, we label agenda items if we need to carry them forward to the next week, and we make sure we are clear on follow-up steps. Then, we go around and each state a positive outcome from the meeting and anything we are still wondering.
Although we still have a long way to go, this structure has helped me, at least, feel like we are prioritizing our work more successfully and getting through more in our meetings. I'm sure we will continue to evolve this structure as we go, but it's nice to have a starting point!
Interested in a copy of our agenda template? Check it out here!