Every meeting deserves a plan. Note that a great plan can’t guarantee a great outcome, but it will help lay down the fundamentals from which you can adapt. Sketch out these fundamentals by using the 7Ps framework.
To give structure of a meeting
Use these items as a checklist. When preparing for a meeting, thinking through the 7Ps can improve focus and results, even if you have only a few moments to reflect on them.
- Purpose: Why are you having this meeting? As the leader, you need to be able to state this clearly and succinctly. Consider the urgency of the meeting: what’s going on, and what’s on fire? If this is difficult to articulate, ask yourself if a meeting is really necessary.
- Product: What specific artifact will we produce out of the meeting? What will it do, and how will it support the purpose? If your meetings seem to be “all talk and no follow-through,” consider how a product might change things.
- People: Who needs to be there, and what role will they play? One way to focus your list of attendees is to think in terms of questions and answers. What questions are we answering with this meeting? Who are the right people to answer the questions?
- Process: What agenda will these people use to create the product? Of all the 7Ps, the agenda is where you have the most opportunity to collaborate in advance with the attendees. Co-design an agenda with them to ensure that they will show up and stay engaged.
- Pitfalls: What are the risks in this meeting, and how will we address them? These could be as simple as ground rules, such as “no laptops,” or specific topics that are designated as out of scope.
- Prep: What would be useful to do in advance? This could be material to read in advance, research to conduct, or “homework” to assign to the attendees.
- Practical Concerns: These are the logistics of the meeting—the where and when, and importantly, who’s bringing lunch.
Each of the 7Ps can influence or change one of the others, and developing a good plan will take this into account. For instance, if you have certain participants for only part of a meeting, this will change your process.
Get others involved in the design of the meeting. Their participation in its design is the quickest route to its effectiveness.
Recurring meetings can take on a life of their own and stray from their original purpose. It’s a healthy activity to revisit “Why are we having this meeting?” regularly for such events.
Make the 7Ps visible during the meeting. These reference points can help focus and refocus a group as needed.
Have a plan and expect it to change. The 7Ps can give you a framework for designing a meeting, but they can’t run the meeting for you. The unexpected will happen, and as a leader, you will need to adapt.