Meeting Agenda as Catalyst?

agenda.jpgWhat are leading reasons for unproductive review sessions of project deliverables? One comes quickly to mind for me – how about when 90% of your invitees show up without having even glanced at the materials in advance.

For one thing, holding a meeting in this environment is not only incredibly inefficient, but it is also unfair to those who have done their homework.

In my last post, I suggested that it is a good idea to provide meeting attendees with an agenda before the meeting so they know what to expect, and to provide structure and direction to the meeting. In this post, I’d like to show how the agenda can also be leveraged to ensure that deliverables are reviewed before the meeting.

My approach would work something like this…

First, inform meeting attendees that you’d like them to provide you with their comments on the deliverable before the meeting so you can be sure to add their items to the agenda. Emphasize that in order to carry out a productive review meeting, you are really going to enforce the agenda and focus time on those items that people were able to see and prepare for in advance of the meeting.

Second, Inform attendees that if you’ve received no feedback within an arbitrary number of days prior to the meeting (typically 1 or 2, depending on how much lead time you provided) you’ll assume that there are no changes or discussion required, and cancel the meeting.

Granted, this approach may not fly in some organizations, but I like it because it allows the Business Analyst to hold other stakeholders (in this case, the document reviewers) accountable for holding up their end of the bargain. Too often the Business Analyst is forced to trudge through long, complex documents line by line when reviewers aren’t sufficiently prepared. Meetings like that are a turn-off to anyone involved, and can really take the wind out of a BA’s sails.

Worst of all, whether it’s completely fair or not, the productivity of a Business Analyst’s meetings are seen as a direct reflection on the his/her organizational and interpersonal skills. I’ll get more into meeting management in another post, but I will just say that it is important make sure that all parties uphold their part of the bargain, and using the agenda as leverage to prompt review is one method of doing so.

What tricks or tools do you use to ensure that reviewers of your deliverables come to inspection meetings prepared?

2 Comments

  1. Here are some iups I have used;

    1. Identify the leaders and see them indiviually before the meeting. THeir opinions are most important and deserve the extra effort.

    2. Deliver printed (colour) verions of the deliverables to the reviewers and give them 2-3 days to review. Tell them you’ll be collecting the marked up docs and be there to pick them up. (They may add more comments at your review eeting, but they’ll have the sense of urgency instilled in them by the deadline, and at the same time think you are making oit easy for them by providing printed versions.

    3. Reinfoce the focus on critical/important issues in the review meeting

    4. Walk through a PPT version of the deliverable (with focus on tables and diagrams)

    Cheers
    Craig
    Better Projects Blog

  2. Thanks for chiming in, Craig.

    I like the idea of delivering hard copies to reviewers and collecting them before the meeting. That’s something I hadn’t previously tried, but I think I may give it a shot.

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