This continues “8 Simple Ideas to Make Meetings Better”
Important topics that aren’t part of the agenda can and will come up. You can stop them from de-railing your meeting by putting them in the “parking lot”. This means writing them down on a list that everybody can see, and reviewing that list near the end of the meeting to decide what to do next.
Hint: The “parking lot” cannot be a “I’m writing this down over here because I want you to shut up” list. In order for this to work, people in the meeting have to know and trust that it will be reviewed, and the items on the list are disposed of (make a decision, put on another agenda, have a separate meeting, etc.) properly. Otherwise the “parking lot” becomes ineffective.
Taking notes is what professionals do. Taking notes in any professional situation instead of relying on memory, or other’s memory, increases your organizational effectiveness by an order of magnitude. It’s worth the moments it takes to write things down in situ. Time you’ll save later trying to remember what was decided or having the same discussion with the same people again. Your memory is s not as good in the future as you think it is now.
Hint: It is difficult to take notes, keep track of time, and take part in the discussion and decision-making simultaneously. If you’re doing one or even (if you’re really good) two well, another will suffer. It’s okay to delegate note-taking or time-keeping out to somebody else if you can.
Take an appropriate amount of time at the end of the meeting to check decisions and action items. The first time you do this it will take longer than you think it will, but that’s okay. Pinning down exactly who is going to do what by when is really really valuable.
Hint: Decisions without actions (work) are merely wishes and of no value. Action items consist of three things:
- Who (one person accountable, even if more than one person is doing the work)
- Is going to do what, specifically
- By when, specifically
Corollary: “Make hay while the sun shines” applies here. If you’re assigned work, then get it done as soon as possible. Don’t leave it until the last minute. If something does comes up at the last minute, which it often does, you’ll look like a jerk for not doing what you promised.
Publish the Notes
Publish the notes as soon as practical after the end of the meeting. Not moments before the next meeting. That is useless. Also really unfair to expect people to complete their work when you publish the official record of the meeting and associated actions five minutes before they’re due. That’s an asshole move.
Hint: Take your own notes during other’s meetings, especially whatever work was assigned to you. Other’s ineffectiveness is not an excuse for your own sloppy work.