Question: When do you choose NOT to use an agenda for a meeting?

Question: When do you choose NOT to use an agenda for a meeting?
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(Elise Keith) #1

Depending on our experiences and perspectives, we all have an idea of what an agenda is and when to use one.

I’d like to better understand the perspectives and circumstances that lead people to avoid using meeting agendas. Are there times in your practice where you’ve intentionally scheduled an agenda-free meeting? (and I don’t consider Lean Coffee or other emergent techniques agenda-free) Are there times you’ve seen clients or subjects balk at the idea of using an agenda? I’d love to hear about them.


(jokello) #2

For me, and for the client companies I can influence, the answer to the agenda question depends on the formality of the meeting and the number of issues to be discussed and addressed. If a meeting is very informal, brief, and focused on a single issue or very limited set of issues, the agenda might be verbalized (or assumed, based on history) rather than written. So, a shift-change meeting in a factory setting would typically not have a formal, written agenda, as the off-going shift always briefly updates the on-coming shift, following an agreed-upon pattern that need not be verbalized again and again. Nor would an after-action review for a first responder group require an agenda, once all members of the team are familiar with the usual structure the team follows. A meeting with a student to advise on course registration or to make a course schedule adjustment would also not have a written agenda – a simple “so we are going to get you in the right level of French class” would do. But for longer, multi-issue meetings such as regularly occurring staff meetings, or project team meetings, a written agenda, circulated in advance would be in order. I would say, when in doubt, tilt towards more rather than less structuring of a given meeting.
I could envision some very special circumstances in which an “agenda-free” meeting might be in order, say for very open, unstructured, creative, brainstorming meetings. I think that for most of us, such a circumstance would be rare.
I have not had clients or colleagues balk at using an agenda… but they know I take an organized and structured approach to my/our work… it’s how I am wired… so maybe they are just humoring me… ;–)

John Kello


(Pierre Wettergren) #3

One answer is: when I online have opened up for influencing the items that need to be addressed.

The process then is:

  1. Day -2: Brainstorm: "What are the important questions / issues that we need to address on our upcoming meeting?
  2. Day -1: Brainstorm w StickyPoints: “Among the items which one’s are more important than the others?”
  3. Day 0: Meeting-day: “We now have a prioritized list of items that you all together have decided. Let’s start!”

This is just one answer to the question. I guess there are more views on this.
/Pierre Wettergren