Planning is the key to successful meetings. It is important that initial planning considerations include the "Five W's and One H" - why, who, what, when and how.

Why Have a Meeting?

  • Is a meeting the best way of achieving the purpose?
  • What about:
    • an Email?
    • phone call?
    • conference call?
    • tagging onto another meeting?
    • individual project for someone?

Who Should Attend the Meeting?

  • Is attendance compulsory or voluntary?
  • Be sure to clarify the role each person is expected to play before the meeting.

What Information Should be Circulated to Meeting Participants?

  • Is there an agenda format?
  • Have you allowed enough time for participants to prepare for the meeting?
  • Did you send reading material early enough?

When is the Best Time to Hold the Meeting?

  • Is there a scheduling issue?
  • Have you given plenty of notice?
  • Would drawing up a meeting plan be helpful?

Where Will the Meeting be Held?

  • Don't forget practical requirements:
    • Has someone organised the venue?
    • What about the start and finish times?
    • What equipment is needed?
    • How long will it take to set up?
    • What about catering requirements?

How Will Outputs/Decisions/Minutes be Recorded?

  • Who is responsible for that?
  • Are they aware of their expected role?


  • Design the meeting format.
  • Ensure adequate time for each item.
  • Prioritise items.
  • Know what actions are required.
  • Know what decisions are needed.
  • Do some items need more time?
  • Agree time frame for items "up front".



Once you have established the need for a meeting ensure it has the appropriate focus. Red hats only for decision-making meetings - no Green hats with new ideas. Although "pure" colour meetings are not strictly possible, avoid meetings that try to do all things. The end result is confusion and a sense of "nothing accomplished".



Green represents new growth and innovation. Green hats only - no decision making!!!

  • Be creative
  • brainstorm
  • Involve a wider group for a richer pool of ideas
  • Encourage ALL ideas no matter how silly they seem
  • Quantity of ideas is the goal
  • Evaluation is prohibited
  • Build on each other's ideas
  • Clarify the ideas recorded.

Appoint a Facilitator Who Will:

  • Enforce the correct procedures
  • Record ideas quickly up front
  • Encourage and reinforce creativity.

When to Evaluate?

  • Either at the end of the brainstorming session OR use an an input to a Red meeting where the good ideas can be assessed and developed towards implementation.

How to Evaluate?

  • We cannot work on or implement ideas all at once, so we must select those ideas the team consider the most worthy of implementation or further exploration.
  • Use the EMU system - using a show of hands voting system, assign each idea one of the following status marks:
    • E - Excellent (all agree)
    • M - Maybe (half agree)
    • U - Unsuitable (none or few agree)
  • At this point people may ask for some brief clarification of the idea to help assess its potential. If at the end of one evaluation there are still more than three E's, use the EMU system again to reduce the number of E's to three or less.


(these often run back-to-back)


  • Red represents decision making and evaluating proposals.
  • Blue represents review process and tracking performance.
  • Make sure there is an agreed preparation system in place:
    • Is there an appropriate agenda?
    • What about individual preparation?
    • What about prior written and oral communication requirements?
  • What progress has there been since the last meeting?
    • Is there a time frame?
    • Have people checked there action plan?
    • Are they keeping to the agreed time frame?
  • Does the meeting linker/leader have agreement from meeting participants to integrate, co-ordinate and control the meeting process?
  • Make sure it is clear to all present:
    • When decisions have been made
    • What those decisions are
    • The action steps required
    • The time frame for action
  • Make sure everyone is encouraged to listen well and contribute their views.
  • Review the meeting's effectiveness as a group.
  • Ensure a balance exists between co-operation and lively debate.
  • Use the SPADE model to help problem solving/decision making processes:
    • S - Share Information
    • P - Problem and Opportunity Analysis
    • A - Assess Solution Options
    • D - Decide Solution Action Plan
    • E - Effect Implementation

At the "decide" part of the SPADE problem solving/decision making process, the group leader/linker should use the appropriate decision style as follows.

The appropriate quadrant is decided by the leader and communicated early. He/she chooses a quadrant depending on the situation and the people involved.


  • Publish deadlines and agreed actions after meetings.
  • Develop the ability to imagine the impact your actions and decisions have on others.
  • Share information with colleagues on the progress of issues.
  • Know what each team member is mandated to do.
  • Honour your obligations and commitments - others are relying on you!!!
  • Hold on to the team values but "let go" of the comfort of being with the others.
  • Be the guardian of the team's objectives and standards.
  • Promote the team when apart.
  • The team leader must:
    • Trust the team
    • Be able to "let go"
    • Constantly show interest
    • Be supportive
    • Keep everyone informed
  • Be aware of routine activities pushing out team agreements.
  • Keep track of priorities with others.
  • Consider rotating the meeting venue.
  • Develop a progress reporting system - what about a bulletin blog?
  • Keep in touch with other team members.
  • Use technology where appropriate.
  • Signal problems early.

Author's profile

Paul has assisted senior managers for many years with their leadership, strategic planning, change management and team development needs. He also specialises in developing multi-rater feedback tools for organisations and generic leadership 360 tools for leadership training, coaching and mentoring programmes worldwide.