Creating Meeting Agendas

creating-meeting-agendasManagers often want to know some basic guidelines for establishing effective meeting agendas. It surprises some of these managers to hear that maybe a meeting isn’t the most effective way to spread information around the office in the first place.

Updates Versus Meetings

Let’s qualify that statement – if, as a manager, you simply need to update your staff on a new company policy or apprise your staff of a room change, that could probably be done in a brief report or through email.

It’s important to differentiate between two types of ends before getting started – are you looking to simply tell staff about an update? Instead, are you hoping to engage your staff in a back-and-forth discussion to hammer down a project’s particulars.

If the former, then you can get away with just sending around an email containing the update or conveying the information that your staff needs to know. If the latter, though, here are some steps to follow to ensure a meeting stays on-track.

Setting a Meeting’s Agenda

The 19th century inventor Thomas Edison noted that his inventions spawned from some problem. In other words, Edison’s inventions were solutions.

What is your meeting trying to resolve? Having a clear objective before the meeting starts is a great place for managers to start. The more concrete these objectives, the easier they can be tracked and measured.

Having an agenda in the forefront of your mind helps to keep the meeting on-track throughout, puts everyone on the same page, and makes it easier to determine the success or failure of the meeting weeks, months and years down the road.

A few examples of clear meeting agendas: have each member of the staff brainstorm one new possible feature of an underperforming product; find the best manufacturer in your area by pooling resources; or, seek ways to streamline ways to reach more customers regionally by asking for contributions from everyone on the staff.

Logistics of a Great Meeting

As a manager, you shouldn’t be bashful about making the end game of the meeting clear from the outset. Hand around a quick overview of the meeting’s agenda beforehand. In the agenda make it clear what you want discussed, the duration of each discussion, who the presenters are going to be, and how long each discussion will approximately last.

The Who, When, What and Where. You need to email your staff the time, place and basic goal of the meeting. Find out from staff how many of your team members are going to make the meeting and make sure that everyone understands his or her expected contribution going into the meeting.

Respect for Time. Make sure that you block out enough time for each presenter, but be realistic about how much time to allot for each topic. Once you’ve done this, put all the presenters names, their discussion topic, and the expected duration of each phase of the meeting into a simple table and hand that around with your meeting’s printed agenda on the day of the meeting itself.

Set the Meeting’s Scope. You should only have one call to action at the end of the meeting. This call to action should be aligned with the meeting’s agenda.

If, for example, you want to find out the best ways to market a current product, and you’re getting questions about another issue entirely, shelve the latter discussion for another meeting or see if you can work that concern into the current meeting’s agenda.

It’s more important to stay on-task and respect everyone’s time than try to find a solution to every issue the company faces.


Measuring Project Success

measuring-project-successOne of the biggest challengers for project managers might not be something you would immediately think. When people think of a project’s major hurdles, they usually think of bringing the most qualified team members together or whether the project is tackling deadlines at a good pace.

Success at Determining Success

In fact, simply determining whether a project has been successful or not is one of the core challenges facing project managers today. Some projects bring together top talent and complete the project well ahead of schedule, but the work fails to live up the client’s expectations. Other projects exceed the client’s expectations and are handed in on time but fail to work within budgetary constraints.

A project manager’s first assignment – after finding out exactly what the client wants and assembling the best team available to accomplish that goal – is getting all team members together and hammering out a checklist for project success. Figuring out how to prioritize success factors like the project’s ability to stick within the outlined budget, timeframe and quality control standards are essential benchmarks to set early on in the project’s life.

Getting these standards of success clear early and often is extremely important for small businesses for several reasons. If the project is deemed a success, the project’s particulars are going to be emulated later by future project managers. Think about it – if you’ve incorrectly set parameters of success that are incompatible with the company’s ethos, then you’re emulating failure and disappointing your clients and shortchanging your team down the road.

Survey from Several Sources

It’s important to draw criticism of a project’s success or failure from multiple streams to ensure objectivity. Project managers therefore should be surveying management, team members, the client and the client’s customers to determine whether all parties had their expectations met or exceeded.

Obviously, the format of these surveys is going to vary based on the party that you’re surveying. A project manager finding out from individual team member’s how they felt about the project is probably going to take place in a more informal, traditionally corporate environment. Getting feedback from customers, conversely, might take place over the phone or through an online questionnaire.

Ingredients for Project Success

Project managers, maybe to their detriment, focus on hitting a time-based measure of success – was the project within the stated timeframe? While that’s an important consideration, it’s not the only one.

Under Budget and High ROI

A project that’s weeks ahead of schedule but that entails loads of botched back-end work and numbers way over budget is never going to please the client (or anybody else). A project manager should weight the important of finishing a project under budget and the benefits of extending more ROI to the client.

Quality Control Measures

If project mangers had their say every project would be completed weeks ahead of schedule, deliver unprecedented ROI, leave all team members feeling great about their contributions, and delivered wrapped in a bow to the client.

That vision is, of course, unrealistic, which is why project managers use a number of metrics to determine a project’s success. Like every other measure of success, agreeing on quality control measures that work in unison with budgetary and time constraints should be a step that all project managers take before setting out on the project itself.

That said, project managers shouldn’t underestimate the important of high satisfaction from clients, the clients’ customers and team members. It’s important to have an ongoing gauge of everyone’s satisfaction and even how well this project meshes with the company’s underlying ethos and team development for future projects.