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Monday, June 26, 2017

Generating an agenda for a meeting - Getting inputs from the team

When you go into a meeting with another team or group, one of the most important inputs when going into the meeting is to ensure that you have an agenda item ready for the meeting, and equally important, that the critical items have all been covered in this agenda. How to generate an agenda for the meeting that is comprehensive and ready in time is something that different teams have used different methods (depending on their internal processes). Some of these methods are:
- Setup a small team to decide on the agenda. This could be a section of the senior leads or the ones from the directly affected areas, Such a process can be a pretty effective process if the agenda items are to be driven up from within a closed team. The way it would go would be for one of the leaders to be given charge of this process, and being given dates and deadlines for this stuff. They can in turn have smaller meetings with individual team members as required to figure out individual points. The agenda items being created would need to be reviewed on a regular basis and modified as appropriate. Over a period of time, as the team leads get more experienced at this process, they will get more effective and be able to drum up these agenda items much more quickly.
- In cases where the team is more geographically dispersed (or even in cases where the people required to work through the agenda items are more likely to be spending their time on email), a simple email thread involving the required folks can slowly start to build agenda items. Depending on the critical nature of the meeting, this can be more formal or informal, there is hard to define a proper level of formality for such an email discussion. It does need one of the team members (team leads / program manager / project manager) to drive this process and ensure that it remains on focus and continues to generate the required agenda items.
- Another 'process' that I have seen a few project managers follow is for them to send a quick note to team members about a meeting with the other team, and asking team members to shoot out agenda items along with a deadline for such submissions. These typically help in generating a list, but it would take some more discussion and refinement before these can be put in the form of an agenda item for the meeting.
- Then there are the cases where both the teams have agenda items for the meeting. It could be that some of the agenda items are not new, but are a continuation or progress from previous agenda items, and the discussion on these is a continuing affair. In which case, for generating the agenda items (including a quick one line on the current status), discussions between team members from both the teams need to happen at whatever level of seniority is required for the discussions.

There would be other methods for generating agenda items for important meetings, and there would be tools that also help in the same; the above list is based on my experience as well as discussions with other team managers.
The opposite, going for a meeting with no clearly defined agenda items or something that has not had this kind of preparation, would expose you to a meeting that may not be as efficient as you would want the meeting to be, or in the worst case, be a total disaster. Not a good place to be. Use the above steps / processes, or use your own, but be sure that agenda items for a meeting are the default, unless the meeting really does not require an agenda item driven approach.

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