Sunday, January 29, 2012

2013 TKR: TEAM: Tools for group meetings: Agenda

Tools for task oriented group meetings: Agenda 
If meetings don't follow good practices, you hear:
  • The meetings are just a waste of time.
  • They just talk, go in circles, get nowhere.
  • Lots of good ideas get ignored.
Here is what to do about that
Meeting Agenda
TODO list for the meeting. A written list of concrete outcomes that the meeting is intended to produce. An effective agenda item should say clearly how people in the group will know when item has been completed.
  • Where does the agenda come from?
  • What makes a useful agenda item?
  • Common items on an agenda
  • How to use an agenda.
  • Vocabulary
If you don't know where you are going, you won't know when you get there.
Where does the agenda come from?
Generally from the people at the meeting, from people at previous meetings, or from an organization sponsoring the task that the meeting supports. Collecting, organizing, and distributing the agenda is a group leadership role.  The person calling the meeting would usually distribute the agenda along with the notice of the meeting time and place.  
If a meeting agenda is not available, a group facilitator would point out the need for an agenda and might mention some items that could go on it.  If there is no group facilitator, somebody else can do it.  You, for example.

Obviously a lead item would be: Develop an agenda for this and future meetings. 

Developing an agenda requires a recorder (role) who solicits suggested items from the group and organizes a list. There will probably be many more items than can be handled in a single meeting, so managing the agenda becomes an action item for a person or SWG.   The agenda then becomes a working document that is used and modified at subsequent meetings.
Managing the agenda is a leadership role with considerable influence over progress on the task.  Volunteers are likely to be readily available.   
What makes a useful agenda item?
  • Concrete language.
  • Specifies a product or outcome.
  • Everyone can tell when the objective is reached.
  • Clearly contributes to the project the group is working on.
  • Can be completed or delegated in reasonable time
Common items on an agenda
  • Reports on each pending action item: status (blockers, schedule)
  • Specification of new action items and who has each one.
  • Schedule time of next meeting.
How to use an agenda.
  • Distribute the agenda ahead of time
  • Show each pending action item and its status
  • Update the agenda as new information is available.
  • Move on when the objective is reached*
*Maintenance role: "Have we finished this item? Are we ready for the next item?"
  • Meeting Agenda.  TODO list for the meeting. 
  • Personal agenda.   Goals of a particular person for the meeting 
  • Group roles.   Type of actions that regularly appear in task oriented meetings
  • Group Maintenance Roles.  Types of actions that regularly foster cooperation in a group
  • Group Task Roles.  Types of actions that regularly foster progress on the task of a group
  • Group Leadership Roles: Types of actions related to organizing and managing the group operations.
  • Facilitator.  Person responsible for encouraging the group to take actions known to foster  effective functioning.
  • Action Items.  Concrete actions to be done by a specific person
  • Action item, accepted.  A concrete task accepted as a responsibility by a specific person.
  • Brainstorming.   A technique for generating ideas in a small group.
  • Planning: Develop list of concrete actions needed to reach the project goal.
  • Evaluate plans: Assess the benefits, costs, and prospects of alternative plans
  • Special Working Group (SWG):  Ad hoc group taking a single action item.
  • Delegate: Turn over a task or group role to a specific person or SWG 
Self managed teams
The main idea of the self-managed team is that the leader does not operate with positional authority. In a traditional management role, the manager is responsible for providing instruction, conducting communication, developing plans, giving orders, and disciplining and rewarding employees, and making decisions by virtue of his or her position. In this organisational model, the manager delegates specific responsibility and decision-making authority to the team itself, in the hope that the group will make better decisions than any individual. Neither a manager nor the team leader make independent decisions in the delegated responsibility area. Decisions are typically made by consensus in successful self-managed teams, by voting in very large or formal teams, and by hectoring and bullying in unsuccessful teams. The team as a whole is accountable for the outcome of its decisions and actions.
Essential group maintenance roles
  • Time KeeperWatches the time, reminds the group of time limitations.
  • Recorder:  Keeps and distributes records of group decisions.

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