2010 12 09 MV: Ambiguity is the hidden serial killer of productivity in any organization. In organizations which hold lots of meetings with lots of attendees, much time is wasted with poorly-worded invites. Obscure titles, no clear purpose or goals… the result is all too often a bunch of people getting together, mindlessly discussing whatever comes to mind… and accomplishing nothing. Because nothing is precisely what was set as the goal.
How to battle this more-common-than-uncommon phenomena?
Simple: no matter your technology (Outlook, GMail, Yahoo, Novell, whatever) for creating & sending invites, simply make it a best practice of including the following sections in all your invites…
A single sentence clearly describing the overall purpose of the “session”; Usually starts with “To [fill in the rest of this sentence with an “action verb” followed by a little text as possible which explains the purpose]”…
Example: “To review SharePoint’s out-of-the-box image upload functionality,and devise possible improvements.”
1. Attendees understand Concept A;
2. Attendees understand Point B;
3. This sub-group understands Concept C;
4. This other sub-group understands Point D;
Goals should be stated as if they’d already been achieved – NEVER using any words like “try”…
Attendee 1 – read this doc;
Attendee 2 – prepare this slide deck;
Attendee 3 – none;
Preparations should name a specific person or groups, start with an”action” verb, and be worded so that each task is measureable as having been completed.
IMPORTANT CONCEPT – merely adding an “Agenda” does NOT improve your ability to achieve anything productive other than covering the agenda. An agenda can be useful, but ultimately it is nothing more than a roadmap, but it is neither the purpose nor the goals of the session. Don’t fool yourself into thinking an agenda without goals will lead to a truly productive session – merely an organized-but-UN-productive one. Think about it…
That’s it – pretty simple, yet ambiguity is all but eliminated, and the result is an organization-wide surge in productivity due to genuinely useful meetings.