A lesson learned: Make an agenda

By Alicja Colon

Um, guys… we need an agenda.

Agenda

It’s hard to admit, but up until a year ago, we weren’t utilizing an agenda for every type of meeting. Specifically we weren’t using one for our client meetings, which were continually running long and often failed to address the key issues at hand. We rambled around questions, but spent more time than was necessary defining the answers. Direction could have been quickly established if we were operating via an agenda that reminded us to simply ask.

The idea of using an agenda for our meetings was actually introduced by a client. While that seems a bit embarrassing, this client is a standup guy, has been around the creative block for years and worked with a many project managers. His insight was (and still is) immensely helpful, and actually helped me do my job better.

As simple and obvious agendas are (I did use them for other types of meetings), I utterly missed the opportunity to utilize them during these weekly feedback sessions. Once we implemented this charm (whoa nelly!) we had better direction, faster meetings, and increased overall project turnaround.

Over the course of this year our agendas have evolved as we’ve tested and tweaked our methods.

First we started with something called “Timeboxed Agendas” where we had topics assigned to an estimated length of time. Each headline “Branding” or “Web Design” had a checklist of topics or questions to cover with a time set to each item as a constraint.

For one particular client, this style of agenda was extremely useful. Once we implemented this method with other projects we’ve learned that the assignment of a duration wasn’t always nearly as useful as simply having a list of items to cover.

Our next iteration was to include the scoped weeks in the header, and nix the time boxes. Having a reminder of the current progress and time yet to go had an immediate impact of increased awareness of project duration. Time sensitivity heightened and clients were better at keeping promised, self-directed delivery times. The ever familiar, “I’ll get that to you by the end of today” actually happened (or close enough). On most projects where we’ve implemented the week count, we’ve been on time or early. Though one thing still plagued as inefficient on the agendas: the items to cover.

Up to this point I was making the agendas. This makes sense in that I know where we are in the project and any general questions needed to move into the next round/sprint logistically speaking. But I didn’t always know the right questions to ask about design or development in regards to the current proof or stage. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve asked the designers on each project to create a list of items to cover in the meetings. From there I’ll add my logistical questions or cues, project status, and the notes from the actual meeting then ship it to the client for review post meeting. This way we’re all on board.

I’d love to continue my learning! Please share: What’s on your agendas? Who drafts them? What objectives do you have with your agendas?