To improve your meeting agenda design that effectively leads a group to its deliverable, use these steps. Following the steps below will increase your meeting success. Before we begin, let us remember the definition of a solid structured meeting (eg, FAST) agenda:

Agenda Design Steps

Meeting Agenda Design — Defined

Your meeting agenda design reflects a series of steps that structure a group discussion during a meeting or workshop.  The FAST technique’s pre-built or cookbook agendas provide solid versions of known and proven information gathering, sharing, and decision-making methods. The modifications you apply to basic agendas will enable:

  1. A facilitator (ie, the session leader) to lead the discussion, with . . .
  2. Subject matter experts (who are experts about content but NOT experts about context or  meeting technique), who build understanding . . .
  3. That extracts required information (ie, the meeting output or deliverable including for example, decision-making or prioritization), thus
  4. Enabling other stakeholders (ie, project team) to use the information and decisions to support and further advance project objectives and organizational goals.

Methodological steps for your meeting agenda design are:

  1. Identify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting—what are you building and what level of detail is required?
  2. Codify the deliverables—what is the specific content for the output of the workshop, what is the optimal sequence for gathering it, and who will use it after the meeting is complete?
  3. Identify known information—what is already known about the project, problem, or scope?
  4. Draft your likely steps—compose a series of steps from experience or analytical methods that would be used by other experts to make this decision, solve this problem, or develop the required information and consensual view.
  5. Review steps for logical flow—walk through the steps to confirm they will produce the desired results.
  6. Identify likely meeting participants—determine the most likely participants and identify their level of understanding about the business issues and the method you have drafted for them to develop the information during the the agenda steps.
  7. Identify any agenda steps that the participants cannot complete—modify or eliminate the steps that your specific participants may not understand, will not value, or are inappropriate for their level of experience.
  8. Identify what information is needed to fill the gaps from step number seven above, and determine how to get this additional information (eg, off-line)—what information or analysis is required to substitute for the missing information identified in step number seven above, that your meeting participants cannot complete?
  9. Detail the final agenda steps to capture required information for the open issues—build the appropriate activities to produce the information without making the participants perform unnecessary activities (eg, do NOT do team building if they already function together properly).
  10. Review—confirm steps number one and two above and then carefully review the detailed activities to confirm that they satisfy the purpose and provide the needed information without over challenging or intimidating your participants.
  11. Perform a walk-through, including documentation format or templates, with other business experts, executive sponsor, and project team members.
  12. Refine—make any changes identified in the walk-through and begin to build out your annotated agenda as suggested by the FAST technique.

To help you access our in-house resources, (e.g., annotated agendas and templates used in our FAST Professional Facilitation Training) go to the Facilitation Training Store https://mgrush.com/shop/. For a nominal fee, you can now access some our favorite tools, including:

▪    PPT Break Timers for $3.99

▪    Quick, five to ten-minute video lessons on critical topics for $5.99

▪    White papers with additional methodology and team-based meeting support for only $0.99

▪    Holarchy Poster for conference rooms to help resolve arguments

Also consider the book “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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11 Comments
  1. Dale Young

    Could I get a copy of a simple Agenda done for an example?

    • Below is a generic example of a simple agenda from a planning session. It is followed by examples of items that could be added depending on the deliverable, culture, project, and participant expectations:
      INTRODUCTION
      MISSION
      VALUES
      VISION
      SUCCESS MEASURES
      CURRENT SITUATION
      PROGRAMS (WHAT)
      ALIGNMENT
      ASSIGNED RESPONSIBILITIES
      GUARDIAN OF CHANGE
      WRAP & DISMISS

      Other narrative components that might be found in either a team charter or a project plan, include:
      ASSUMPTIONS, CONSTRAINTS, and DEPENDENCIES
      BUDGET, TIMELINE, AND RESOURCE ALIGNMENT
      BUSINESS CASE OR PURPOSE
      COMMUNICATIONS PLAN and TOUCH POINTS
      CORRECTIVE ACTIONS
      DETAILED WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE
      FLEXIBILITY MATRIX
      FRAMING DIAGRAM (eg, IS NOT/ IS)
      ISSUE ESCALATION PROCEDURE
      OPEN ISSUES MANAGEMENT
      PHASE GATES REVIEWS, MILESTONES, OR DECISION POINTS
      RISK ASSESSMENT AND GUIDELINES
      STAKEHOLDERS DESCRIPTIONS

  2. I typed a reply but not sure that it got through. I believe that Agenda should consist of objectives not just topics. Thus you need a verb in each “step”. See my web site – management-me.com (Sorry I do not know how to put in a link on this reply). Check out the categories on (a) conference leading and (b)speciific techniques for specific situations – and (c) planning

    I found your material of great interest

    Any criticism of mine gratefully received

    • Dear Bill,

      We agree wholeheartedly that the agenda steps should focus on describing the deliverable from each step. What does “done” look like?

      The verbs (and much more detail) are required on a copy of the facilitator’s annotated agenda. The participants should only concern themselves with the simple agenda, where the verbs add no value. Nobody wants more meetings or more work. Verbs represent or capture the work. Participants want results or the objects as you stated. Objects are nouns.

      If I find the deliverable for a step in the agenda in my desk and bring it to a meeting, and you as a participant are satisfied with the quality of the deliverable, the agenda step is over. The verb is not necessary (eg, “Define” or “Analyze”) because what the participants need is the definition or the analysis (ie, the object or objectives, typically a thing), and how they get it (ie, through the verb) is secondary.

      We’ll take a look at some of your material, presumably found at http://managementme.wordpress.com/, and comment there.

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