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Leading Effective Meetings, Outcomes vs Agenda

September 07, 2011

Quick, what’s the first thing you expect to see if you receive a handout
for a meeting?  I bet you said “Agenda”.  Would you be surprised if there
was no written Outcome on the same handout?  Probably not.  On both
counts you would probably fit with 90+% of the rest of the world. And
that’s a problem.

When it comes to meetings we read/think Agenda, and only assume
the Outcome.  Actually it turns out that there’s a lot of diverse definitions
floating around amongst participants in most meetings when it comes to
defining Outcome.

It’s one of the reasons the average meeting  is so much less than it could
be.  That’s right, not having a defined, shared outcome, is one
of the
reasons most meetings aren’t very efficient, and why I’m
able to teach people  how to lead meetings that take half the time pretty
easily.  Stay with me and I’ll explain how that ties into Outcome and one
thing you can do to turn around the very next meeting you are leading…
for the better.

First the rap on meetings.  Most meetings consume a minimum of twice
the time resources necessary to process the information being discussed.�
During that extra 50% of the time used, most people feel a sense of boredom,
tedium or frustration… certainly not entertainment – hence the tendency
to multi-task during meetings.

Additionally meetings also don’t generate effective long term output, so
they and the information in them, has to be recycled, repeated multiple
times.  If meetings were compared to any other resource, they would be
rated as being incredibly time consuming, and costly, for the value
generated.  Typically the amount of time lost in a single meeting is the
equivalent of a whole day’s productivity for a member of the team. Ouch!

OK, so what does that have to do with Outcome and why draw the
distinction between agenda and outcome?  Let me share with you my
top 3 functions that Outcome plays in a meeting.

1. Without a Defined Outcome, the meeting doesn’t have a reference to
determine value.  Where do you, where does the group, expect to get, and
what tangibles do they expect to have by the end of the meeting?�
Meetings suffer when they don’t have a responsibility to reach an outcome.

2. A Defined Outcome is not only the destination; it is a course
reference process throughout the meeting.  It’s the
first decision point for whom to include in a meeting.   It should be the
hidden value-add question in your mind for every conversation…
e.g. “Is this discussion going to help us get to our defined outcome?”�
It is the guide that helps you make effective trade-offs  on how to spend
time throughout the meeting.

3. The Defined Outcome is the basis for creating an Agenda, as
the Agenda essentially represents the topics that need to be addressed
to reach your intended Outcome.  Think of your agenda as simply the
work plan to reach the Outcome.  Defining the Outcome is essential for
defining Who is going to attend; What’s going to be addressed; and
When you make course corrections in each and every meeting.

Bottom Line: Establishing a defined and shared outcome across the
participants for every meeting is a critical starting point and alignment
guide for every business meeting you lead.  And it is lacking as
an active, in your face, resource for a majority of business meetings.
Don’t let it be in yours.

Here’s two tips:
1. Go watch a free 10 minute video I’ve put on on using Outcomes
in Meetings you can get access to it by signing up on this page

2.  Go read an ebook on the topic and other keys to creating
great meetings that I’ve made available for free at

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