Stop Meeting Madness!!! Create Useful Agendas

AgendasWhy Agendas Are Important

The best way to ensure that those attending  a meeting are sure about its purpose is to send them a clear agenda, well in advance.

An agenda for a meeting is a list of items or issues that need to be raised and debated. It should be short, simple and clear.

The recommendations in this article may seem like a lot of work.  But, as I have noted before, “insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

The effective creation and use of an agenda can greatly enhance the effectiveness of meeting, cut down on meeting time, improve communication, and serve as a useful tool for the Meeting Manager.

How Items Get on the Agenda

Where do agenda items come from and how do they get on the agenda?

For most medical groups, the best process is that each shareholder or Board member can submit an issue they would like to discussed to the Manager of the group. The Manager may want to send out a reminder to all shareholders about the due date for agenda items.

At the appropriate time the Manager and President meet to develop and finalize the agenda.  Many groups give their President the authority to develop and set the agenda. However those same groups typically allow a shareholder or Board member to raise an issue at the meeting if it is not included on the agenda (however those issues usually drop to the end of the meeting).

To prepare the agenda the Manager and President review potential agenda items, select those that are most important, develop and order of discussion and estimate the amount of time each discussion should take place.  Be generous in estimating the time.  Yes, an issue can take 5 minutes if only one person talks, but an interactive discussion takes longer.

An important tip – nothing makes a Board Member or shareholder more angry than seeing that an agenda item they proposed is not on the agenda, with no explanation. Therefore, I suggest that the President be charged with the task of contacting those that submitted issues that are not included on the agenda, and telling them why that is the case.

The President and Manager should then total the estimated time to see if the meeting can be completed within the meeting time goal (say 2 hours) discussed in an earlier article.  If not, they must begin paring away the lower priority issues, or warn the other members of the Board that the meeting might last a little longer than the goal.

Agenda Topics

What are some of the typical topics for Board meetings? It can be any number of things, to include:

  • New service locations.
  • Developing relations with others through affiliations or mergers.
  • Needed changes to policies and procedures.

Unfortunately, some of the items that often end up or a Boards agenda relate more to management issues than Board issues. I will discuss how to deal with that situation in a later article.

Agenda Guidelines

Let me suggest several guidelines for setting good agendas:

  • Try to restrict an agenda to one sheet of paper.
  • An agenda should contain details of the meeting’s date, time, place and purpose.
  • An agenda should be as specific as possible about the main purpose of the meeting.
  • The time devoted to each item should be indicative of its priority.
  • As previously noted, try to set reasonable time allocations.  Time allocation should err on the generous side.  Nobody minds if a meeting ends early, but overrunning is unpopular.
  • If the total of the time allocation exceeds a reasonable meeting length, revise your plans.
  • Some groups choose a “timekeeper.”  If an issue exceeds its expected time, the timekeeper or Meeting Manager should stop discussion and ask, “Do we want to continue this now, or defer the remaining discussion to the end of the meeting or another date?”
  • It is not reasonable to present participants with a revised agenda as they arrive at a meeting unless last-minute events have made it necessary – for example, if a participant is not available because of illness or there is a sudden change in financial circumstances.
  • Much time is chewed up in meetings with individuals providing reports from certain departments or committees. I suggest that such reports be delivered in writing in advance of the retreat, and there be no oral report, except saying “does anyone have any questions.”  This, in and of itself, can save you hours and hours of meeting time per year.

Information to Send with Agenda

One of the important jobs of a Shareholder or Board member is to come to the meetings prepared.  Therefore, the agenda should be sent out several days in advance of the meeting.  Along with the agenda, any relevant backup information should be sent, to include:

  • Minutes of the last meeting.
  • Department or committee reports.
  • Information related to an agenda topic, such as a cost/benefit analysis.
  • Financial reports.
  • Market intelligence.

Some groups find it effective to categorize this information as follows:

  • Monitoring information.
  • Decision information.
  • Educational information.
  • Market Intelligence information

Agenda Distribution

So who do you send the agenda to?

The attendees, of course.

If you have a sub-set of the physician-shareholders serving as a Board, I recommend that you send the Board agenda to all shareholders. This will allow shareholders to provide Board members feedback about the issues to be addressed prior to the meeting.


Please contact me if you’d like to discuss this post.

Will Latham


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