The Team Meeting Process

by Louise Smith

Have You Ever Found Yourself in This Situation?

Carol's weekly leadership team meeting is scheduled from 2:30-3:30 every Wednesday afternoon. Arriving at the meeting at 2:25, Carol waits 15 minutes for the meeting to begin. An agenda with six items is passed out at this time. Although agenda items were requested ahead of time, an important item carried over from last week's meeting is not included. The principal, after patiently waiting on two late team members, opens the meeting with the first agenda item and asks for a volunteer to take minutes. It is now 2:55. As the discussion of the first agenda item begins, an opinionated team member dominates the discussion for 10 minutes. After 20 more minutes this item is finally resolved. As the team restlessly wades through the second agenda item, the time is approaching 3:45. By 4:00, the principal decides to close the meeting with only half of the topics covered ...

Would a team meeting process have benefited Carol and her leadership team? General consensus would likely be a resounding "YES!" As team members in schools, many of us have witnessed poorly structured meetings resulting in ineffective decision-making as well as team member frustration and burnout. In the climate of change experienced in our schools, collaborative teams are tasked with the responsibility of creating policies and initiatives to facilitate the complexities of change. With limited time for decision-making, a team meeting process that is efficient and productive is necessary for teams to get their jobs done.

The T/TAC professionals at Virginia Commonwealth University have developed a team meeting process that promotes shared ownership and participation, respects time limits, and provides a structure for prioritizing issues, brainstorming solutions, and reaching consensus. The following 12 steps lead to improved team facilitation.

Step 1: Assign roles

Different roles, such as facilitator, recorder, and time keeper, are assigned to people attending the meeting. When roles are rotated and shared by all team members, everyone participates, and there is shared ownership for the agenda, discussions, and decisions.

Step 2: Assign times

The facilitator asks for estimates from the team as to how much time will be needed for each agenda item. The timekeeper writes down these times and uses them to alert team members of time limits during discussion.

Step 3: Celebrate

Each meeting begins with team members sharing some of the positive things that have happened since the last meeting. Celebrations may be personal or professional.

Step 4: Review past meeting notes

One team member reviews past meeting notes to check on the progress that team members have made since the last meeting. Team members report on whether they have completed the tasks they agreed to do. Any incomplete tasks or issues that arise during the report-out are listed as topics for the current meeting. The team also refers to any carryover items in the past meeting notes and adds them to the agenda, if applicable.

Step 5: List issues

In addition to the items that arose during the review of the past meeting notes, team members identify the issues that need to be addressed at the meeting. Issues are phrased in the form of a question, such as "How can we ...", "When will we ...", or "What are ...". Issues may be collected before the meeting and included on the meeting agenda form, but the team leader should always ask if there are additional issues at the meeting.

Step 6: Prioritize issues

The team determines which issues to address first. If all items are of equal importance and do not have an apparent sequence, team members may decide to simply follow the list. If there is a limited amount of time, the team decides which issues must be discussed and which ones can be carried over to the next meeting.

Step 7: Brainstorm solutions for each issue

The facilitator reads each issue in the form of a question to be answered. Team members follow the rules of brainstorming to generate potential solutions.

Step 8: Reach consensus

The facilitator guides the group in reaching consensus on actions to be taken to address each issue. The timekeeper indicates when there is 1 or 2 minutes remaining to discuss the issue and asks whether the team would like to extend the time if necessary.

Step 9: Record (who, what, when)

For each issue, the recorder writes down the task to be completed. The team determines who on the team will complete the task. Finally, the team agrees on a reasonable deadline for task completion.

Step 10: List issues for carryover

Any issues that the team did not discuss are recorded as carryover items. At the next meeting, the team refers to these items when reviewing the past meeting notes.

Step 11: List date, time, and location of next meeting

Team members clarify where and when the next meeting will take place. They try to settle on a time and place that is convenient for the majority of the team.

Step 12: Assign a member to distribute notes

The team facilitator asks for a volunteer to distribute copies of the notes to all team members, including those not in attendance at the meeting. Because some of the tasks are time-sensitive, the notes are to be distributed soon after the meeting. Copying and distributing of notes at the end of the meeting is ideal.

References

Fox, T.S., & Williams, W. (1991). Implementing best practices for all students in their local school. Burlington: Vermont Statewide Systems Support Project.

The Team Meeting Process, authored by VCU T/TAC, may be found in its entirety, including the meeting forms, at T/TAC Online (http://ttaconline.org) as an online webshop. The estimated time to complete the course is 25 minutes.

Date: November/December 2005