When Your Meeting Shouldn’t Have an Agenda Ahead of Time

Here is another valuable Management Tip of the Day from Harvard Business Review. To sign up for a free subscription to any/all HBR newsletters, please click here.

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You’ve probably heard this meeting advice before: Set an agenda and send it out ahead of time. But if the purpose of your meeting is to tackle a complicated problem, it’s better to have the group decide on the agenda together.

o Plan to spend 10%–15% of your meeting time to get the agenda right: a half hour for a half-day meeting, a couple of hours for a two-day meeting.

o Start with individual brainstorming so that people can form opinions on what the group should cover. Then have them anonymously post their ideas on sticky notes for others to see.

o Next, everyone should identify themes and cluster similar ideas together. Once you have a good list of possible topics, ask the group to make final decisions about what should be on the agenda.

This process can be time-consuming, but going through it together will ensure that participants are engaged and feel ownership over the process — and the outcome.

This tip is adapted from Don’t Set an Agenda Before Important Meetings,” by David Komlos and David Benjamin.

Here’s a direct link to dozens of other Management Tips.


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