Conclude your meeting or workshop by reviewing action items and outputs such as decisions, next steps, priorities, reports, etc. Review the output, do not relive it.  Before you manage your meeting parking lot (ie, Open Issues), ensure that pieces fit together to form one cohesive product. Then assign responsibility to Parking Lot items (ie, Open Issues) that remain valid and unresolved.

While meeting parking lot issues may become action items, have your group list the action items that they have already agreed to or will undertake—starting with tomorrow. List the items, clarify them, and have someone take responsibility. Assign a deadline (month, day, year) for a communications update on Open Issues.

Consider applying the RASI tool (Transform Your Responsibility Matrix Into a GANTT Chart) to convert your action items into a project plan. And remember, absence or silence is unacceptable during assignments. Therefore, do not permit making assignments to someone who is not attending the meeting, either live or virtually.

Standard Method for Managing a Meeting Parking Lot

There are various ways of describing open issues, also called a meeting parking lot, that develop during meetings. Other terms used by organizations include Issue Bin, Coffee Pot, Water Cooler, Elevator Speech, Limbo, Chestnuts, Popcorn, and our favorite, Refrigerator. (Refrigerator reflects a term used in the Middle East because the items temporarily stored there can be preserved and cooked up later). Regardless of the term you use, open issues need to be managed properly rather than left unassigned as a list of items without context or assigned next steps.

During the meeting, record open issues as they arise.  Facilitate your meeting parking lot activity after you have completed closed issues and assignment of other action items. First, review each open issue. Make sure the open issue remains valid. Over the course of meetings, some open issues are no longer “open”. If so, deleted them or mark accordingly (eg, OBE = Overcome by Event, or taken care of).

Sequenced Activities for Managing a Meeting Parking Lot

Append each open issue using the following sequence:

  • The issue more fully defined—a complete, coherent statement of description
  • Note the single individual responsible for communicating back to the group on the status of the open issue (frequently viewed as who ‘will do’ or complete the open issue)
  • Expected completion or progress update (month, day, year)
  • How progress or completion will be communicated to your group of participants
  • If follow-up requires a file, give the file a name so that future ‘searches’ are made easier
  • Consider email size limitations, file naming conventions, and file-server security restrictions

Alternative Method for Managing a Meeting Parking Lot

A simple method for managing meeting parking lot issues is called the “2 by 4.”  Meant to connote a standard piece of lumber, the method suggests a quick, three-question approach—namely:

To – By – For to Manage Meeting Parking Lot

  1. To:  Do what ?
  2. By:  Who and when ?
  3. For:  What purpose or benefit ?

Evaluation

Obtain comments on the method used during your meeting and your own facilitator performance. Use the evaluation questionnaire described in the FAST Continuous Improvement section. Alternatively, create two “plus” and “delta” columns to capture what went well and what could change to improve the next meeting. Others terms used to describe the “Plus/Delta” tool include OFI (Opportunity for Improvement), “Benefits & Concerns” (also known as the “B’s & C’s”), “Star/Delta”, and Appreciative (+) or Opportunistic (-).

The MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on providing methodology that gets thoroughly practiced by each student before the week concludes. Some call this immersion. We call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH Professional Facilitation Training provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation Training aligns with IAF Certification Principles and fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, our Professional Facilitation curriculum immerses students in the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Because nobody is smarter than everybody, attend an MG RUSH Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world, see MG RUSH for a current schedule.

Additionally, go to the Facilitation Training Store to access our in-house resources. Finally, you will discover numerous annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. If you value our contributions, take time to buy us a cup of coffee and punch LIKE or FORWARD.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Monthly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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