We have all had the experience of concluding what felt like a productive meeting. Several items were identified for follow-up. Other items were marked for inclusion in the next meeting to be supported by necessary background information and recommendations for action. Yet, when the next meeting of the group arrived, much of the follow-up had not been completed and the new items for consideration were either not ready or had been completely forgotten.
How can we fix this problem? Here are five steps you can consider:
- Ask those people who have assignments to summarize what they are committing to do to the rest of the group. This step not only increases the likelihood that action will happen, it presents an opportunity to assure everyone has the same expectations regarding what is to be done.
- Have one member of the group take responsibility for documenting and later contacting each person who has an assignment to be sure they understand, remember, and come prepared to share their work. If necessary, that person can be responsible to inform the meeting chair of likely “holes” in the follow-up.
- When the next agenda is developed, indicate prominently those items that are to be completed and ready for discussion or action at the meeting. Also, highlight the assigned item on the agenda copies sent to those with specific follow-up responsibilities.
- Request those who have follow-up assignments to submit copies and support materials for sharing with the group in advance of the next meeting, even if the information is a brief summary of the status of the item. This step alerts the group in advance if follow-up is not occurring or has not occurred.
- Skip over items on the agenda where follow-up has not occurred. Attempting to discuss or deal with items that have not been given adequate attention can be a waste of time. Skipping over the item and having to reschedule can also be a not-too-subtle reminder that the work was not completed. At the end of the meeting, re-assign the follow-up to the same person, assuming renewed commitment, or consider giving the item to someone else who will allocate adequate attention and energy.
This article originally appeared in an issue of our monthly publication NorthStar for Principals.