Making Your Meetings Productive
More time than I care to count, I hear individuals complain about spending too much time in meetings. I get it because sometimes meetings are not productive and don’t end with any specific action plan.
To avoid this complaint, make your meetings more productive by starting with an agenda/meeting purpose and ending with a well-designed action plan so you can track and get to your real goals. Use the tools identified below to setup your action plan and agenda for meetings that need to take place during the process of successfully completing your project.
What is an action plan?
This might sound very self-explanatory but just so we are all on the same page. I define an action plan as a document that lists the major tasks needed to be completed to accomplish your goal. It is often used to break up the process into actionable assignments with a timeline and action items associated with the responsible team member.
Why do you need an actionable plan?
An action plan can help you identify a clear path to move toward your goal and confidently organize associated tasks in the appropriate order to achieve your goal in the most efficient way.
An action plan should make it easier for you and your team to stay motivated and monitor progress toward goals, allowing you to keep your projects on schedule and within budget. If collaborating with others, you can use it as a tool to reference who should be held accountable for each task which can help you avoid delays, miss communication and troubleshoot errors.
Create an action plan meeting agenda
If you can, the project manager can create an outlined action plan before the first meeting with the team or, if the project is very complex, use the first meeting to create a more detailed action plan based on a rough outline. With a rough outline, you will have the skeleton parts of the action plan and you will be able to get buy in and feedback from those team members involved in each step. It will also help you run your meeting more smoothly by offering topics to discuss and a plan and route to get there.
How do you and your team develop an action plan?
Writing an action plan might sound time consuming and challenging but it is worth the time at the start of the project to stay focused later and gain clarity on the progress made.
Action plan meeting agenda
5 steps to creating your action plan.
1, My favorite goal setting method is to use the SMART goal setting. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.
Specific means your goal is well defined. What specifically do you need or want to accomplish? Use numbers or percentages to quantify what your goal.
Measurable: How are you going to tell if you are reaching your goals? What measurements are you going to use?
Attainable: Make sure your goal is attainable or break out steps so that it is attainable.
Relevant: There is a reason for this goal and is determined by the problem or issue the goal solves.
Time-based: What are the specific dates to measure the progress towards your goal? How long will it take to achieve your goal?
I also add budget, even though it doesn’t fit within this acronym. It is important to define the budget parameters so that this area doesn’t quickly get out of control.
- Create a list of tasks
Next, create a list of actionable tasks that you need to complete to reach your goal. Consider dividing your key goal into smaller, achievable objectives. This makes your major goal seem less overwhelming.
Again, make sure the actions are attainable and related to your goal.
- Develop a schedule
It is essential to create a timeline you can reasonably follow so you can maintain consistent progress toward your goal. Assess the requirements and consider the amount of time you need to complete each item on your list.
- List all your resources and assign specific tasks to each resource
Assess the skills and abilities of your team to determine which of them are best qualified to perform each task. Then, write down who will oversee the tasks and the resources needed to complete the task, such as money, equipment and personnel.
- Monitor the progress
Don’t wait to the end to evaluate your progress. Monitoring and evaluating the steps and progress will help you ensure the tasks are getting done and that the goal is achievable. This step also helps you see what, if any, modifications need to be made. This also keeps everyone on top of what is happening, and a clear view of the progress being made towards your goal.
For reference, I have attached an action plan template which briefly gives a preview of what information to include. To make the plan less cumbersome if you are embarking on a huge project with many team members, you could break down the steps and meet after each significant step is underway and then when that step is completed to go through the action plan for the next step.
Action plan template
- List Problems or Issues You Are Trying to Solve:
- List the overall goal using the SMART goal format
- Breakdown the goal by specific steps.
- Develop an Action Plan for each Major Step Include…
- Actions (steps you need to take to accomplish this step)
- People resources (who will be handling each action item within the step)
- Timeline (deadline for each step)
- Resources (assets you need to allocate for each step)
- Potential barriers (factors that can hinder the completion of each step)
- Outcomes (desired result for each step)
- Next Steps
- Evidence of Success
- Tracking and Evaluation Process
Much of this depends on the size of the project, team members needed, goals set, budget allowed and items that make your project unique. So, take what works for you and adapt or eliminate those items that are not needed. This is your project, and you know what you need.