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How a Properly Planned Agenda Eliminates Ineffective Meetings

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Organizations spend a great amount of time throughout the course of a year in meetings. Meetings should always be meaningful, organized, and necessary. Unfortunately, too many meetings I have sat through fit what a friend once told me, “Meetings are people sitting around talking about things they ought to be doing.” I can recall many meetings I attended through my career wishing I could have been in my office working!

I think meetings are more fruitful if they are preceded by a comprehensive Planning Meeting at the beginning of the year. The purpose of this initial meeting is to get everyone on the same page for the upcoming year.

University of St. Francis Athletics

Our full-time people in the St. Francis athletic program would annually meet approximately two weeks after the May final exams. We met to review the past year and to plan for the upcoming year which began in late July with our fall athletes arriving for preseason practices. We devised a simple, but comprehensive, plan to prepare for the upcoming year. Our full-time people blocked out four hours – from 8:00am -12:00pm – for one week to plan for the new year. This gave us 20 hours set aside for one thing: Planning.

As the Athletic Chair, I brought the agenda to the meeting. Our first order of business was to study the agenda and add important items that I missed. We then reviewed the previous year by having each person review his goals. I don’t ever remember accomplishing all my goals, so I reviewed mine first. By doing this, everyone knew that it was okay not to achieve all your goals. Those not achieved could be carried into the upcoming year.

The agenda was divided into two areas – “Priority Items” and “All-Other Items.” We first discussed the Priority Items, the most important things we had to face for the coming year. We then developed an action plan for each of the Priority Items. 

The All-Other Items were primarily setting dates for annual functions we had to plan for like banquets, community/fundraising events, the golf outing, and all other date-related events. These dates were important because they needed the cooperation of other busy University Departments like Food Service and Maintenance. The sooner we gave these dates to our cooperating departments, the better for their planning.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

It was my job to take copious notes of our discussions so I could write our annual Planning Document. It was a simple document delineating the items we had to accomplish for the new year. We then sent the document to both our full-time and part-time personnel.

Each full-time person would write his goals for the coming year, especially integrating the Priority Items into these goals. We had many more part-time, off campus, coaches than our full-time people. The Planning Document was sent to every part-time coach so they could read it prior to our combined full and part-time personnel meeting.

In mid-July, we held our total department meeting. Each full-time person would speak to his responsibilities within the Planning Document. By doing this, our part-time people had the opportunity to read the document prior to the meeting and then listen to it come alive as the full-time people presented their portion of the document.

When our full-time personnel finished their presentations, we opened the meeting to our part-time people for their input. They always offered points we had missed and subsequently could add to our planning. This format enabled us to have all our people on the same page to face the upcoming year. 

At mid-term we would meet with our full-time people and get a progress report on each person’s goals. We would get final reports at our year-end meeting as well. We would then review the goals and begin the planning cycle for the next year.

This format allowed us to not have meetings for meetings sake. We met when we had to plan for important events or when problems arose. These meetings were both organized and necessary. At all other times we were in our offices working.

Final Thoughts

From our experience, I would recommend four thoughts for your consideration:

  • I would encourage you to meet with your principal people and write an annual Planning Document.
  • I would encourage you to share the Planning Document with all of your people.
  • I would encourage you to have your principal people write their goals in concert with your Priority Items.
  • Although you will not accomplish all your goals each year, I believe you will be surprised at ALL you do achieve due to this format.

I hope you find that some of our planning details can be integrated into your planning.

Pat Sullivan was a successful coach, teacher, and administrator in the Chicago area for 44 years – 10 years at the high school level and 34 at the collegiate level. His basketball teams won 602 games; he was named Coach-of-the-Year 11 times; and he has been inducted into 8 Halls of Fame. He has received Lifetime Achievement awards from Lewis University, the Joliet, Illinois, Chamber of Commerce, and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Pat has offered basketball clinics and camps in Austria, Ireland, Belgium, and Greece and has spoken at clinics throughout America for the USA Coaches Clinics. He has also spoken to business executives from IBM, Accenture, and Sun Microsystems, as well as the University of Notre Dame’s Play Like A Champion conference. He is the author of Attitude-The Cornerstone of Leadership and Team-Building: From the Bench to the Boardroom.

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