Setting up Meetings for Success

After years of watching how organisation ‘really’ use management information, I am more than a little sceptical. If we put my scepticism to one side, most meetings should centre on decisions based on good information and analysis. The reports and dashboards you will be prototyping in the next step should feed those meetings with the right information. Without being absolutely clear on what a meeting is for, you have little chance of supplying the right reports and dashboards.

You need to know precisely what reporting input is required for your meetings. This is done through a meeting’s ‘Terms of Reference’ or TOR, normally a one-page document outlining the inputs, outputs and objectives of a meeting. You can download the Terms of Reference template from this page:

Setting up meetings with a Terms of Reference
    • What is the purpose of the meeting?
    • What is the scope of the meeting? Which part of the organisation, approval level etc.
    • What are the inputs for the meeting? Data, reports, samples etc.
    • When should the attendees get reports and documents prior to the meeting – i.e. what is the SLA for production of these documents?
    • What are the outputs of the meeting? E.g. Decisions, budget approval, judgements, sign-off etc.
    • Who should be there? By role and authority.
    • Is there clear guidance on the use of deputies and their authority?
    • How often does the meeting happen?
    • Who runs the meeting? By role. If you need to put names in there then make sure you have contingency owners as well.
    • What are the roles and responsibilities? E.g. Minute taking, organisation, producing the timetable etc.
    • Where does the meeting happen?
    • How long is the meeting?
    • How do you change the Terms of Reference – who do you contact?

You should summarise this in a one-page document and circulate to the proposed meeting attendees for sign-off. Here is that free template to help with setting up meetings, again…

Go live with a meeting’s Terms of Reference

The most effective way to implement a new Terms of Reference is gently but persistently. As a rule, ‘big bang’ introductions don’t work for very long and are quickly forgotten. It requires sustained reinforcement to get people to modify their behaviour. The Chair is in the best position to exert this sustained pressure, so they need to be up to the job.

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