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The Danger of Agenda-less Meetings

I receive many meeting requests. Way too many. I decline most of them. My first pass at declining meetings are those without an agenda. I also call these cold meetings. Meetings can be valuable to:

  • Give or elicit feedback
  • Brainstorm solutions

However, I will not attend agenda-less or cold meetings for several reasons.

We need to prepare

A key ingredient to a successful meeting is being prepared. People are requesting a meeting because they want answers, need feedback, etc. Everyone needs to know the topics we’re going to cover so we can give the most thoughtful and reasoned advice possible.

We want to be helpful

Meetings are a great way to give and receive a lot of information quickly. An agenda provides guardrails for the conversation. It is hard to be helpful when we don’t know what help is needed.

We’re busy!

Everyone is busy. Too busy. We need meeting to keep focused. It allows us to stay on topic and finish the meeting on time. Hopefully, we finish early!

Agenda-less meetings are dangerous. Without an agenda, people make assumptions on the intent of the meeting. This leads to the meeting being hijacked for other purposes. Providing an agenda make the topics clear to everyone.

One result of providing agendas it the vast reduction of meetings! Once people see the agenda, usually, the issues are resolved over email or chat. Also, some meetings are more about information dissemination. These are usually the meeting that “should have been an email”.

Good meeting agendas are an important part of good Agile practice. If you struggle with meeting-itis (too many meetings) or meetings that seem to wander. Let me know, I can help!

Wm. Barrett Simms
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