Decision Making Meetings – Agenda is Important!

We had an management day-long meeting today. For the past year, when the management team grew larger than 5 people, the meetings had started to evolve into a gigantic 1-2 day status meeting. Kind of how Brad Feld talks about board meetings here. Everyone throwing out information with no real structure and no decisions made at the end. They did help all management know what everyone else’s teams were doing, but they took way longer than they needed to and was not a good use of everyone’s time. That many smart people in a room should have a better output than everyone is just more informed.

Today, Symplified’s CEO, started the day with something like “we need to make a plan about how to approach the enterprise market and the mid-market”. So far, so good. We then started talking about the enterprise market. He started off by leading a discussion on what defines an enterprise customer, what our strengths are in that area, and what our gaps our in that area. It was a good discussion for the most part, but it had a few longer tangents than needed and I saw first-hand how difficult it is to keep 10 people on task without any direction on what is going on.

After 1.5 hours of the meeting, at a pause in the discussion, I said, “it would really help if we had an agenda for the day. I know you want a strategy for the enterprise and mid-market, but how are you going to get to any decisions? We’ve been talking about the enterprise definition, strengths, and gaps. What do you want to cover next? And then I assume we will do it all again for the mid-market, is that right? It would be helpful if we all knew the agenda, when there would be breaks, etc…” Then some smart-asses in the room said “I can see who runs our implementation projects” and “no, Josh just has to go to the bathroom”. I say smart-ass in the most appreciative way – it created some good laughter.

So, a break was called. I went up to him, and we laid out an agenda for the day and put it on the white board. We would talk about definition, strengths, and gaps, for the enterprise, then make some decisions and have some take-aways. We would frame the discussion around the concept of “People, Process, Product, Plan”. We would then do that with the mid-market. There were a few particular items that we wanted to make sure were covered, and we noted those on the whiteboard as well. When everyone came back from break, the agenda was laid out, as well as the important items that needed to be covered, we asked for other important items to cover, and then we continued with the agenda.

The meeting went very well and we ended the day with clear decisions and action items. This was noted by other executives as well. The CEO and I also agreed that next management meeting I would set some time with the two of us a week before the meeting to lay out the agenda and get in everyone’s hands so we all had time to think about what’s to come and prepare ourselves with information for the topics at hand and decisions to be made.

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