It's hard to keep meetings focused when side issues and tangents come up. Use a “parking lot” to keep your tangents under control.
Step 3: Relegate things to the parking lot
If everyone agrees an item is interfering with progress, write it in the parking lot. There’s always a chance that it’s already there, in which case point out to the group that that particular item will definitely be handled in the parking lot review at the end of the meeting.
The Relevancy Czar can take this a step further. If the same tangent comes up again, don’t ask the group if it should be sent to the parking lot. They already decided it should be. Instead, say to that person, “good catch! That’s already in the parking lot, we’ll get to it at the end of the meeting.” Once they’ve brought up the question of what flavors should be in the Penguin Panty Snowcone product line 18 or 19 times, even the most ardent tangent-goer will get the message that it will be taken care of before the meeting adjourns.
Step 4: Review the parking lot!
Of course, you actually need to take care of things on the parking lot before the meeting adjourns. Set aside 5–10 minutes at the end of the meeting to review the issues. If you don’t take the time to address people’s issues, those issues will not go away, and the people in the meeting who brought them up will only get more troublesome. Next time, your assurances that it’s safe to put things in the parking lot will not be trusted.
Parking lots keep you on track and moving forward.
Go through the parking lot with the group. Take action on each item.
Delete items that really weren’t relevant to the discussion, or now aren’t relevant. Tom Riddle’s diary? Penguins just don’t care.
Defer things that are relevant to the whole group. Schedule a slot in the next meeting agenda to discuss those items. Test marketing to the aquarium audience seems like it could be a seriously relevant idea. It gets deferred to the next full-team meeting.
Delegate things that are relevant to part of the group to the subgroup that cares about that item. The finance people on the product launch simply aren’t the ones to consult on snowcone flavors. But it’s an issue that is perfect for a sub-team of designers, chefs, and market researchers.
Parking lots keep meetings on track and moving forward. Set aside a parking lot, and create a relevancy czar to steer things to the parking lot when they’re veering off course and threatening to roll over the fence and into the bleachers. When a tangent arises, add it to the parking lot, and spend the last five minutes of the meeting deciding to delete, defer, or delegate the parking lot items. Soon, your meetings will be racing to completion, and you’ll be the envy of all the cool kids with your new Penguin Panty Snowcone.
I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. Want great keynote speeches on productivity, Living an Extraordinary Life, or entrepreneurship? Hire me! Find me at http://SteverRobbins.com.
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