How do you plan meetings to ensure they’re going to be productive and the right people take part?
Here are three steps for planning a meeting.
First, don’t think about the meeting at all. Think about the outcomes you or your team are hoping to achieve, which this meeting might make possible. Write those outcomes down, and make sure everyone agrees on them. With outcomes clear, ask yourself: what decisions are standing in the way of achieving those outcomes? A good meeting agenda should connect decisions to outcomes by designing a conversation that improves on alignment, on outcomes by discussing, and in some cases, making, decisions.
Second, with outcomes and decisions in hand, figure out who should be there by using a RACI model. With regards to each decision you hope to explore or make, list out all the parties that are responsible (R) for those decisions because they make them, accountable (A) for them (they have veto power), could be consulted (C) because they have subject matter expertise, and informed (I) because the decisions may affect their work. Then plan enough of an agenda to get the right mix of those people to occupy those decisions.
Last and most importantly, be ready to abandon your planned agenda a little, maybe even completely. A meeting agenda that fails because you’re unwilling to change it in the moment is too brittle. You might find that your team isn’t thinking the same way that you thought they were. That’s OK. Be self-aware enough to be okay with the meeting taking a different course, as long as it’s toward the same decisions, and, ultimately, outcomes. Remember, it’s not about you.