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Nobody wants more meetings. Yet many of us find ourselves in meetings a few dozen hours per week (or more).  Why do we meet so frequently since seldom do meetings actually remove stuff from our “To-Do” list?  On the contrary, most meetings normally lead to more work. How do we fix this? Start with your agenda steps.

Agenda Steps Too Frequently Show Work (ie, verbs), Not Results (Objects)

Likewise, your meeting participants do not want any more work, and verbs are work.  We perform verbs so that our activities yield results, frequently called objects (hence the term objective), also known as nouns.  Make your agenda steps nouns, as the verb adds no value for participants.

Terms like “identify” and “define” add no value to a simple agenda.   The only help facilitators who need to know the method for delivering up results at the end of agenda steps.  Save the verbs for yourself.  Put them on your annotated agenda (ie, play script for you only), but spare your participants of the need for more work.  Most participants seek less work, not more, so use an object or noun for describing agenda steps.

Likewise, view your meeting deliverable as an object and exclude verbs.  We typically organize ourselves and activities around nouns, not verbs.  We all perform the same verbs, such as Plan>Acquire>Operate>Control or Plan>Do>Check>Act (Deming).  Take a look at our business organizations.  People are organized around things (nouns), such as treasury (Finance), legal issues (Legal), human capital (Human Resources), products (Product Management), customers (Sales and Marketing), etc.  Most everyone in those various departments performs the same verbs, they are simply adding value to a different resource or object.

Use Nouns (Objects) to Describe Your Meeting Agenda Steps - NOT Verbs

Make Your Agenda Steps Simple Objects to Describe What DONE Looks Like

Meeting Deliverables are Also Nouns

Therefore, get your participants focused on “what DONE looks like.”  Begin with the meeting deliverable, and the describe the object you have in your hands when a successful meeting is complete.  Do the same for your agenda steps, so that everyone stays focused with the end in mind.  Embrace the modifications shown below in your simple agenda, and put the verb stuff in your annotated agenda along with greater detail about your break-out sessions, CEOs (ie, Chief Easel Officer), questions for them to answer, and your method(s) of analysis that will build consensual understanding and agreement.

Most people include verbs (see example on the left) to remind them what to do as facilitator.  Most of the instructions are devoid of the painstaking detail required to keep groups at a high performance level.  If, as a participant, you have a high level of confidence that your facilitator knows what they are doing, most assuredly you would rather participate with the agenda on the right because it’s clear, simple, and agenda steps denote chunks of progress—objects that have been created, not work that is forthcoming.

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Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices 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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