Four Meeting Problems – Which Ones Do You Want to Overcome?

Friends, have you experienced any poorly run meetings lately? Although meetings are a fundamental tool for managing projects, many meetings fail to achieve results.

Let’s look at four common meeting problems: unclear purpose, topic hopping, indecision, and unclear direction.

Why Are We Here Concept

Photo courtesy of

1. Unclear Purpose. Far too often, people attend meetings with no idea of why the meeting was called. You can bet the meeting will wander aimlessly without clear objectives.

The meeting facilitator should specify the purpose in the agenda. For example: “To select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.”

Start your meetings by stating the purpose of the meeting. For example: “The purpose of this meeting is to select requirements from the backlog for the next sprint.” Then review the agenda topics and ground rules. Ask if there are any questions or any additional agenda items.

These steps help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the purpose, topics, and desired conduct.

2. Topic Hopping. Many people are free thinkers. They hop from one topic to another. However, this digression decreases the efficiency and effectiveness of your meetings.

Reviewing your purpose and agenda items defines the boundaries of your meetings. What is in scope? What is out of scope?

Use an Issues List. Meetings stimulate ideas. People don’t want to forget them. Capture the idea or topics on the Issues List for discussion later.

For larger, more complex meetings, consider using the role of a Gatekeeper. This team member keeps the team on track and within scope. If team members discuss other topics too much or too long, the Gatekeeper redirects the team to the current topic. Click here for additional information on the Gatekeeper and other meeting roles.

3. Indecision. We often leave meetings with no decisions. Factors that contribute to indecision include lack of clarity on who will make the decisions, how the decisions will be made, and lack of information or analysis. Determine these factors before the meeting.

Another variable is the number of meeting participants. There is an inverse relationship between the number of participants and how quickly decisions are made.

Here is my personal rule of thumb: Ensure that you have adequate stakeholder representation, but limit the participants to no more than eight people when possible.

4. Unclear Direction. A well-run meeting should result in clear direction and progressively propel your project forward. The facilitator should ensure that the following items are captured during the meeting and reviewed at the end of the meeting:

Meeting RAID(s):

  • Risks. Capture threats and opportunities in your risk register.
  • Action Items. The action items should include: date of action item, actions to be taken, person responsible, due date, status (Open or Closed).
  • Issues. Issues are threats that have occurred and require management. Issues should include: date of issue, description, person responsible, due date, status.
  • Decisions. What decisions were made? Who made the decision? What was the date of the decision? What factors contributed to the decision?