Set an agenda, and stick to it.

If you’ve ever had to run a meeting, you’ve probably gotten this advice. Doing so, you’re likely to have been assured, is absolutely critical to conducting an effective and efficient meeting.

Forbes Magazine certainly seems to think so. If you want to run the most effective meeting possible, “create an agenda” they argue, and “stick to your schedule.”[1]

The Harvard Business Review appears to agree. Circulating an agenda prior to a meeting is “by far the most important” thing you can do to prepare according to an article published in that journal by Anthony Jay. Meeting leaders “should not be afraid of a long agenda,” Jay adds, because it will help to “clarify” what the meeting is about, and speed it up.[2]

Even—the website associated with the popular “How To”-series of books—is in agreement. One of their “ten tips” for running an effective meeting is to “stick to an agenda with a timeline.”[3]


Wait for it…

And so in light of all this, it is interesting to hear what Brian J. Robertson has to say on the subject of meetings, and meeting agendas.

Robertson is the author of Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World published in 2015 (Henry Holt). Holacracy, according to the book’s jacket, is a “revolutionary new system for running companies” that allows for “maximum agility and flexibility.” According to the website, over 300 companies currently manage themselves this way, including Zappos and PrecisionNutrition.

Holding effective meetings are of particular concern for Mr. Robertson, and for good reason. As he explains in his text:

“With Holacracy…the seat of power shifts from the person at the top to a process…” (p. 21)

That process is defined in detail in a written constitution – a document which mandates that several different types of meetings occur on a regular basis. These include “governance” meetings and “tactical” meetings, as well as “strategy” meetings.

Importantly, the Holacracy “process” that these meetings are intend to serve reigns supreme, and “trump even the person who adopted it,” as Robertson explains. Meetings might therefore be considered especially critical to the effective practice of this particular management system.

And so with all of this in mind, it is then interesting to hear what Robertson has to say about meeting agendas, and how to set them:

“Rather than going through a preset list of items that you think you should talk about, try to drive your meetings with agendas built on the fly, in the meeting” (p. 182).


See you next Friday.


Blogger’s Note: The point of this post is not to try to convince you that setting, and sticking to a meeting agenda is a bad idea. In some instances you should definitely come up with an agenda beforehand, while in others it may make sense to be more spontaneous. Instead, the larger point I’m trying to make with this, and all of the posts in my “Unconventional (mis)management non-wisdom” series, is simply this: For each and every pearl of management “wisdom” that you might come across, or have otherwise come to believe, there exists an equally convincing argument, or equally sincere observation that advocates for behaving in precisely the opposite way.



[1] “Seven Steps to Running the Most Effective Meeting Possible” by Neal Hartman., Feb. 5, 2014. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2017.

[2] “How To Run a Meeting” by Anthony Jay. Harvard Business Review (online), March 1976. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2017.

[3] “Ten Tips For Running an Effective Meeting” by Laura Larimer and Abshier House. Retrieved Jan. 12, 2017.