Everyone has to attend or lead meetings at some time, but not all meetings are created equal. How many people dread going to any meeting versus a particular meeting? How many people feel the attended meeting was a waste of time? Does anyone think the meetings are really producing the desired results? How can meetings be made more effective and productive?
Since everyone has to go to meetings, should those meetings be something people value and look forward to attending? Working together in a meeting requires all the coordination and cooperation required of any team. So why shouldn’t the team feel like each meeting is a pep rally leading up to the work or game and of course ultimately achieving a win.
There are a lot of different answers out there for the above questions and a multitude of recommended methodologies. However, if a closer look is taken of each, all the good ones have four suggested elements in common. Those common elements make up the R.A!R.A! Approach which stands for Roles, Agenda, Records, and Actions. Sure there is more than four factors to a great meeting and the full R.A!R.A! Approach covers a lot more, but the minimum of these four can turn a non-productive meeting into a productive meeting. Let’s take a high level view of the R.A!R.A! Approach and how it increases the effectiveness and productivity of a meeting.
Before the meeting:
- The first step in planning a meeting is to assign any roles necessary to the meeting going smoothly. Typically the meeting will need a leader or facilitator and a recorder (a.k.a. record-keeper) as the minimum roles. If the team is new to meetings a trained facilitator is useful in coaching the team towards good meeting practices. Other roles may be included as the team or leader sees fit.
- The next step is for the leader or facilitator to define an agenda (game-plan) for the meeting. A rough draft of the agenda may have been established by the team in a prior meeting or by the leader for a new meeting. The defined agenda should include the topics to be covered, who will present them or discuss them, and a time limit per topic. When the reminder of the meeting is sent out, include the proposed agenda and if there was prior meetings include any outstanding actions.
During the meeting:
- At the beginning of the meeting, there should be a quick review of the roles and the agenda. The team should agree to these because the roles and the agenda are used to keep the meeting on-track to time limits, defined topics, and keep team working in a cooperative and coordinated effort.
- Throughout the meeting, the facilitator, leader, or recorder will record items of discussion, decisions reached, and actions to be taken either outside of meetings or in the next meeting.
- At the end of the meeting, the team will review the list of actions and make sure each one is assigned to a person along with a due date. If there is a follow-up meeting planned, the team may draft a tentative agenda for the next meeting. The tentative agenda will be defined in more detail by the facilitator or leader before the next meeting.
After the meeting:
- When the meeting is completed, the recorder will type and distribute formalized minutes of the meeting as a record of what occurred. Records are important for reviewing past discussions and verifying decisions that were made and why. The records should also include the original meeting agenda at the top, and the actions assignments and next meeting tentative agenda at the bottom.
- Having the actions in the record serves as a reminder to the team members of what they need to do next. If individuals have actions they need to accomplish, they will know when they are to be done by.
The next time a meeting is planned, begin introducing the four elements of the R.A!R.A! Approach: Roles, Agenda, Records, and Actions. With the acceptance of each element as a norm in any team meeting, the team will not only notice a difference in productivity, they will know they are becoming more effective and will begin enjoying the meetings more. The more enjoyable and effective the meeting, the more people are willing to attend and follow-through by completing their assigned actions.
NOTE: Most of the information in this article has been adapted from the book titled “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizard’s Approach.”