If there’s nothing to report, should it be on the agenda?
I’ve written posts in the past giving what I think should be the broad categories of topics that should be covered off at monthly management meetings. Following the Balanced Scorecard methodology (Kaplan and Norton), these include:
- financial topics
- customer topics
- internal process topics
- learning & growth topics
All of them should be derived from a strategy with objectives, metrics, targets and initiatives.
This last piece – initiatives – can be problematic. It’s often the case that, coming up to a regular monthly meeting, someone organizing the meeting will send a note around to the attendees asking if they have any items they’d like to include on the agenda. In the interest of keeping things short-and-sweet, it’s easy to respond with, “no, there’s really nothing to report this month, so let’s just leave it off.”
This, I think, is a mistake, for three reasons:
- The amount of time it will actually take to say “there’s nothing to report this month” will consume but a few seconds of time at the meeting and won’t cause significant delays.
- The repetition of the item at each meeting – even if there’s nothing to report – helps to ensure that everyone remembers what was included in the strategy that they signed on to in the first place.
- There is the possibility of driving important discussion about why there’s nothing to report this month.
How can a whole month have gone by with no achievements, or at least activity, having happened? If one month can go by with no report to the team, why not two? Could it be that neglect is setting in? Is there no steering committee pushing it forward? Might it be the case that what seemed like a good initiative in the first place is not that important after all?
In all of these cases, it surely is worth taking the pulse of each initiative and determining whether the execution is problematic (or, alternatively, perhaps just cruising along well), or whether the strategy itself is in need of fine-tuning.
Reserve the right to be wrong strategically, but don’t let sloppiness of strategy execution set in. If the initiative was important enough to launch in the first place, it’s important enough to report on every month.
Some agenda items should be designated as “recurring” and automatically show up, whether someone is “ready,” or not. People will know to stay on top of them.
Monthly meetings occur, well, monthly, and are one of the very best opportunities to have people together and to make important decisions as soon as possible. That’s why they’re there in the first place. Either continue to support the current set of initiatives or put them out of their misery and redirect resources elsewhere.