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Imagine you walked into a room and had virtually no idea why you were there. You recognized some of the other people there, but not everyone. Someone just began speaking and you weren’t really sure what they were saying -- although you note there are a bunch of acronyms being tossed around -- and you’re so confused and just trying to make sure you land in the right seat.
Sounds like a bad dream, right?
Indeed, and it’s also very commonplace at work for many people, because many meetings -- which take up a good chunk of work time (somewhere between 35-50%) -- lack an agenda. A team meeting agenda is incredibly important to get people on the same page, get some consistency in layout and process of team meetings, and keep projects moving forward without a lot of unnecessary distractions and sidebar conversations.
In this post, we’ll look at some approaches to a team meeting agenda and then provide some templates you can use, as well.
There are many theories on this, and some of it will vary depending on your overall project methodology. You might use the increasingly-popular standup method, or you might convene for functional team meetings in a conventional sit-down format.
A general structure may look something like this:
If you’re using a standup model, which is designed to move faster, each person should go around and say:
Another model for structuring a team meeting agenda is:
Many meetings, unfortunately, end without action items -- and because so much of white-collar work is meetings, people will run to the next meeting, and then another meeting after that, and eventually memories of what was discussed in the first meeting will fade away.
Without action items, there is no possibility of follow-up, and then quite possibly another meeting will need to be called to level-set on the lack of action items so far. A better approach:
That’s a popular meme about wasteful meetings. But is it true? In some cases, yes. But others, like management professor David Burkus, have argued that it’s not true:
“There’s a lot that happens in a meeting that can’t be replaced with a digital memo,” says Burkus. “A long-standing maxim on communication has it that only 7 percent of information communicated in person is verbal – the actual words that could be conveyed in an email. The remaining 93 percent are contextual elements like non-verbal cues, tone of voice, context, and feedback.”
Another management expert, Lara Hogan, has argued similarly:
“Sensitive, difficult, or surprise information—like the context for a big roadmap upheaval, a staffing change, or anything else that involves managing emotions—is best communicated in person first (and followed up with an email),” says Hogan. “This way, you can pivot your message based on the questions or reactions in the room, and you can add extra color with your words, your body language, and your tone of voice.”
So yes, sometimes meetings do need to happen. And you need a team meeting agenda when they do.
Those would be:
Here we don’t mean “scrum” vs. “stand-up” vs. any other model. Instead, what we mean is that meetings serve different purposes. For example, meetings can be:
There are numerous types of meetings, and when we get into templates right now, the templates do vary by the type of meeting you are attempting to construct.
Here’s our favorite project meeting agenda template:
No one wants to spend a chunk of their week in worthless, unproductive meetings -- although during the worst weeks in some organizations, it can feel like that’s what you’re ultimately doing.
Meeting planning has hardly been mastered by most orgs, but it can be helped along dramatically with a team meeting agenda that focuses on why people are together, what needs to be done, and how it will ultimately get done. It’s not easy, no. But it’s doable if you stick to a consistent format using some of the ideas and team meeting agenda templates above.
One of the core goals of Fingerprint for Success is improving team dynamics, and while this doesn’t tend to happen in meetings -- it happens more in one-to-one interactions and coaching sessions -- meetings can be an effective team-building model if you do it right and keep it standard.