Have you ever been in a meeting where the attendees seemed to go down one rabbit trail after another? At the end of that meeting, likely everyone left wondering why they were there. Those meetings are failed meetings. Meetings should move things forward. Otherwise, what’s the point? And that gets to my point: meetings should have a point of focus.
I know I’m writing this on my technical blog, but bear with me, because this is important for IT. The first reason it’s important is we want clear decisions. The second reasons is we want to be as efficient as possible with our time. Those two reasons mean we want meetings to be successful. Otherwise, we’ll find ourselves without a decision with a calendar full of meetings.
The likely problem with a meeting get off track is it didn’t have a focus to begin with. If a meeting did have a focal point, then the attendees allowed the meeting to drift away from that reason for the meeting. Either of these situations gets us to an unsuccessful meeting. Therefore, insist on meetings having a focus and try and hold folks accountable to staying on topic.
One doesn’t have to be a jerk about it. There are kind ways of reminding folks that the meeting is drifting away from the point. Something as simple as, “That sounds great for a later discussion. I’m going to note that down. However, let’s focus on the reason for this meeting.” If you do note those diversionary topics down and attempt to initiate later coverage of those topics, you’ll incur trust and that will help folks stay within the bounds of the meeting’s purpose.
This topic came up in a class I recently taught for those preparing for the ISACA Certified Information Systems Auditor exam. One of the practice questions asked what should an auditor do to help a meeting be successful. The correct answer was to limit the scope of the meeting and hold attendees to that. It’s great advice. Meetings are more effective if we know why we’re meeting and we hold each other to discuss, and hopefully come to a decision on, the point of the meeting.