Stepping Up - Overcoming Meeting Paralysis
I don't think I know anyone who
would say they actually enjoy or appreciate
meetings. We dislike the fact that our time is often
wasted for a variety of reasons, from waiting for
latecomers, to straying off topic and not resolving
the issues at hand.
With teacher leaders assuming
increased responsibility for efficient team
functioning, several tools can help. These include:
agenda, norms and norms monitoring, a parking lot,
and "group memory" devices.
In this column we will address the
topic of setting and sticking to an agenda.
Developing the agenda
Ideally, the agenda should be developed collectively
by the team members. Using the last five minutes of
the current meeting to list topics for the next
agenda is a good strategy. Another is to notify all
team members that the agenda will be posted, either
electronically or as a hard copy, so that items can
be added by individual members between meetings. The
team facilitator can also simply collect items via
email, and if there is an extended period between
meetings, periodically email the developing agenda
Assign time limits
A highly-neglected strategy that can significantly
improve meetings is to assign a time limit to each
item. Each member who contributes an item suggests a
time frame for it, and/or can confer with the
facilitator about a realistic time frame.
Publish in advance
The final agenda should be published at least a day
ahead of the meeting itself. Ideally it should be
emailed to all members, or finalized on the
electronic bulletin board or wiki (if available).
Items and time frames
charted ahead of time
Before the meeting begins, I strongly suggest to
meeting facilitators that they create a chart
listing the agenda items - detail is not needed on
the chart, just the name of the item. Be sure to
write in, next to each item, the number of minutes
allotted to it.
This visual reminder will provide
a helpful tool for a facilitator to continually
reference when working to keep a group on track. It
is surprisingly more effective than just having the
printed copy of the agenda in front of everyone, and
also serves any team members who may have forgotten
their own copy.
Beginning the meeting
Begin on time. Latecomers will soon learn that the
team will not wait for them. Review the agenda,
including time frames, and ask the group if there
are any additional items, with the understanding
that last-minute additions will go at the end, and
will be addressed only if time allows. Ensure that
there is consensus on the order of items and their
Fidelity to the agenda
Stick to the time frames. If someone begins to stray
from the item at hand, remind him/her of the time
frame for the item, and ask if s/he would like you
to record the concern on the Parking Lot (more on
this next time).
End on time. Any items that were
not addressed roll over to become the first items on
the next meeting's agenda.