No agendaless meetings


A few years ago, I was working in a team with many stakeholders. I had both frequent scheduled and impromptu meetings. Someone would set up a meeting in our calendar and invite all required people. The title and often a short description would explain the reason for the meeting.

In objectively too many meetings, we’d find us digging down a rabbit hole, hence losing track of the problem. We talked about this and decided on a simple solution: we try to set up an agenda for all group meetings; otherwise, we at least keep track of the discussion with meeting notes.

For every meeting I attend, I make sure that we have an agenda. I’ll happily volunteer to set it up! My favorite structure for meeting agendas is this simple one:

  1. Catch-up agenda (only for recurring meeting)
    We have to catch-up with the following topics from the last meeting. Topics that aren’t urgent act as an asynchronous update.
  2. Agenda
    Our main discussion points, added ideally before the meeting starts.
  3. Action items
    To-dos that are an immediate result of this meeting.

I’m still experimenting whether a catch-up agenda is useful. Because ultimately, if you need to wait for a meeting to communicate your status, your team has a major problem.

Each of these titles has subitems for each discussion topic. A topic can be a problem, question, or anything else you can talk about. The person who adds the topic prefixes it with their name. Kev: in my case. If the topic is only a status update, you prefix it with [Async] or [FYI].

When beginning to talk about a topic, this gives room to the person to talk about it without being talked over. This also helps people who are insecure or shy about raising their discussion topics. And, anyone who didn’t participate can quickly catch up and see all action items.