For those of you who spend much of their time in meetings, here’s one way to improve meeting productivity. Use the Meeting AID tool to set your agenda.
AID stands for Action, Information and Decision. Categorize each item as an Action, Information or Decision item. Circulate information in advance about each agenda item in the form of background documents. Note on the agenda the category for each item.
Action items are those that require some sort of action by participants. Action items should be circulated in advance with a brief 1 paragraph explanation of the rationale for the action, and the steps that each person needs to take. Since the decision has already been taken, action items are about clarification, not discussion. So conversation about action items should be limited to clarification.
Items for information are just that, items that are about sharing some specific information that people need to know, but don’t need to act upon. Information items should be circulated for reading in advance, and only questions of clarification should be entertained. There is no need to read the reports or circulate additional information for info items. There should be virtually no discussion for these items.
Items for decision are those that require the input and support of the attendees of the meeting. A 1 page background document outlining the issue, including any background, context or data needed should be circulated in advance. It should also specify the decision that needs to be made. The backgrounder should note whether the item is for input to the decision-maker, or whether the decision will be made by the attendees at the meeting. These items will usually take significant time of the group, but will also be the most productive way to use the collective skills of the team.
This system assumes a couple of behaviours. First, that the agenda is developed and background material circulated in advance of the meeting. Second, it assumes that the participants actually read the material. Third, it assumes that the meeting chairs are disciplined in the way that they run their meetings. But, if we do the upfront work planning and preparing for our meetings, we should be both more productive and more effective in the work we do in meetings.