An exceptionally simple model for the best meetings possible
This is a simple, flexible question-based model for organizing any kind of meeting, or conversation seeking shared outcomes. The group stays collaborative and productive whatever the scope of work, diversity of participants and time available. The process doesn’t require any special kind of hierarchy or pre-set agenda.
The model features four actions.
1. Identify the questions: Everyone is invited to share the open questions they want the group to work on at that point in time. Questions can represent any kind of wishes, concerns and issues. Each is spoken aloud and written on (physical or virtual) cards. Add backlog questions to what emerges.
2. Organize the questions: The group sequences the questions, considering factors of importance, urgency and dependencies. For each question, estimate the beginning and end dates when questions need to be worked on.
3. Triage the questions: Identify on the spot assignments — people who volunteer to work together on any question after the meeting. Any question that at least 2/3 of the group wants to work on gets worked on by the group in the meetings as time permits. Undone worked on questions move to the backlog.
4. Work the questions: For questions selected for the meeting, start work on each by identifying all the knowns and unknowns. Keep everything visible on cards. Any new questions that need more work gets assigned on the spot or added to the backlog.
What if the meeting lacks strong leadership or a clear topical agenda? It doesn’t need either. If either exists, we still follow the same four actions.
What if people go off scope during the meeting? Everything gets formed as a question on a card and is either assigned on the spot or added to the backlog.
What if everything intended to get done in the meeting doesn’t get done? Anything worked on that goes undone by end of meeting is either assigned on the spot or added to the backlog.
What if there are key people not present? They are patched in by phone when needed or invited into assigned on the spot work after the meeting.
What if we have people dominating and disappearing? Make sure people write each of their ideas on cards, one item per card, and read each aloud so the group stays optimally engaged.
What if email becomes inefficient for organization? Try if possible to never use email, only a shared space, ideally a free, secure Trello Board that optimally keeps everyone on the same page and new people quickly engaged.