TeamBuild June 2019: The power of virtual agendas

In February, I talked about the power of working online with teams. This month I want to zero in on one online tool – a shared agenda that also is used to take meeting notes in real time.

In three organizations I work with, we draft and post our agendas on Google Documents. Everyone who will be in the meeting has editing access. During the call, the agenda is in front of everyone (on Zoom, for example, on a shared screen; otherwise, everyone can pull up the agenda on their own screen). Minutes are noted on the agenda as we talk. This is both a tactical and cultural change that is challenging for some but ultimately efficient and accessible.

Post the agenda ahead of time

Posting an agenda online avoids having to send out an agenda via email. In one group I chair, I have committed to have the agenda online 48 hours ahead of our call. Everyone on the team can edit the agenda before the meeting, which distributes ownership and can result in a better agenda. This also means that you don’t have to go searching through your emails to find the agenda – it is always sitting in the shared Google Doc.

Simplify minutes by taking notes on the agenda

Increasingly I work with teams that take minutes in real time – on the agenda, online, so that everyone can see what is noted as the call progresses. In one group I am in, we take turns taking minutes, to share the load. Visible real-time note-taking also distributes power – it becomes clear what the note-taker is writing down or not, and others can speak up. In addition, while the note-taker for the day has lead responsibility for taking notes, anyone else can add or edit notes as we talk. It’s helpful to keep track of what was decided, who will do what (I note this in the document in red), and to not burden someone with summarizing and distributing notes afterwards.

A cultural change

In this new culture, each person is responsible for accessing the agenda themselves. The agenda does not land in an email; however, email prompts are helpful – “Just a reminder of our call tomorrow – please review the agenda beforehand.” (Where it says agenda, provide the link.)

Last week I heard a client typing while we talked. “Are you drafting an agenda? Put it on Google Doc and I’ll join you,” I said. With that, we worked together online, collaboratively, and efficiently.

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