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How to Extract Productive Decisions from Meetings

As part of my quest to reduce educator’s workload by reducing unproductive and disengaging meetings, I am researching Team meetings and Staff meetings as an invited observer. I am very appreciative of the principals and educators who allow me to watch meeting proceedings for the purpose of answering the question, “How can meetings be more engaging and productive?”

Over the next few articles, I will share some of my insights. There are many areas of meetings that can be improved and one of them is: The Agenda.

What I have identified is the format of deriving a group decision after a short discussion with sparse background knowledge is poorly orchestrated.

Low engagement. Low productivity.

The agenda item may read like:

Item 3 - Playground Duty Change.

The leader comes to the “Playground Duty Change” item and proceeds to explain that there is a problem in the playground, and it has been identified that a change in duty will solve it. The participants are then asked to come up with a solution and then decide which is best.

What happens next is knee-jerk thoughts, individual bias suggestions usually finishing with, “I’ll tally the suggestions and get back next meeting.” How long did people think about the solution? What frame of mind were they in? To decide, people need context and options. So, the item is still on the agenda, the suggestions were rushed and still in need of some more discussion.

Nothing has changed. No decision has been made. Expecting people to make good decisions in meetings void of prior context is like expecting a sale from a cold call, it doesn’t happen.

If you want a decision to a problem, then the leader should provide background information and context ahead of the meeting. This could include a summary of the issue, relevant data, and any proposed solutions or options. Ensure this information is sent out with the agenda well in advance so participants have time to review and formulate their thoughts.

The Agenda Item heading would then look like this:

Item 3 Decide about the change in playground duty.

Which option below do you think will work best?

Option 1 -

Option 2 -

Option 3 -

Why is this better?

The participants have had the opportunity to read, familiarise and suggest solutions prior to the meeting via the information sent out with the agenda. Hence the discussions have already happened.

Everybody had an opportunity to voice their opinion.

The meeting is used to audit any questions about the listed options.

The decision is made with context and clarity by all.

High engagement. High productivity.

There is so much time that can be saved by supplying the context and knowledge to participants prior to the meeting. Meetings are not brainstorming sessions. And even it was, context and knowledge would still be required. The trick is for the information to be concise and easily understood. This is another leadership skill.

How are your meeting decisions being made?

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