When we walk into a meeting with an agenda as a facilitator, we’re already one step ahead of the game. Instead of a loose set of topics being discussed in no particular order, we use a framework where the issues under discussion can be tackled in an effective and logical way. A well-prepared agenda can lend us and the group a lot of confidence that there is purpose and structure to the meeting – a fundamental step for ensuring value for all participants!
But sometimes the best laid plans go awry. Not long into the meeting it might become clear that the agenda just isn’t working for the group. In certain cases it’s good to forge ahead with a set agenda if you know what items the team has failed to tackle in previous meetings. Your role as a facilitator might be to encourage them to complete these tasks and issues before moving on to other topics. How do we identify the point where the agenda is hindering, not helping in our goal of providing effective facilitation? When should we throw it out and start from scratch?
There are several scenarios where it’s best to abandon the agenda and re-evaluate:
As facilitators, it’s part of our job to sense these issues in the room and turn to the group when they arise. But our approach varies based upon the types of scenarios we encounter:
Often in this scenario, the agenda can be retooled quickly and turned into a very effective meeting.
Feel free to postpone or delay the meeting until these variables are worked out, or use the existing meeting time to plan out the priority topics, pre-work requirements, and expertise which will make subsequent meetings more effective.
In these last two cases, you have to design a series of meetings to make sure all outcomes are achieved. In every case, remember to invite the right team members to the right meetings so you always have the needed expertise, and time is never wasted.
Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!