Have you ever been sitting in a meeting listening to a discussion on a topic and wondered if you were in some sort of parallel universe where real issues are always subordinate to the trifling matters of the moment? Or maybe sat through a strategy session which ultimately added no value because of turf struggles or other banalities drawn out by the leader’s admonishment to “speak freely” or “be contentious”? Well, fret not my friend you are not alone. My unscientific polling results (I discussed it with some co-workers) indicate that bad meetings outnumber good ones at about the same rate beer bottles outnumber Bibles in a college fraternity house. So how do we put an end to MNMS?

A good Blackbelt would never start a project without a good charter and similarly, a good meeting leader should never call a meeting without a strong agenda. In fact, I believe a meeting agenda should actually look similar to a project charter. Think about it. A good charter has the problem defined based on supporting measurements and/or data analysis, the stakeholders, project team members, and scope identified, an estimate of the resources required to get the project going, and it articulates the ultimate goal of the project team and what will be used as a measure of success or failure. Why don’t we hold meeting organizers to the same level of expectation we do Six Sigma project managers?

Try it yourself first. The next time you call a meeting, take a few extra minutes and plan your agenda the same way you would write up a project charter. Don’t be completely rigid during the meeting but make sure the discussion is within your predefined scope. People will begin to recognize you for your effectiveness in leading meetings and some will adopt your methodology.

Imagine a world where meetings actually produce some tangible results. Give it a try, the sanity you save might be your own.

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