Agenda questions help the team stay on track
Often when I’m facilitating a team’s activities, I find myself thinking that they have gone far afield and I need to bring the team back to the original purpose. Nagging works: “Hey guys, let’s get back on track.” Posing a somewhat-open question works: “Is it time to come back to the original intention?” Both feel contrived, though, because both make it sound as if I know what’s best for them. And, I know I don’t. Their side-road conversation may be exactly what’s best, it’s just not what I imagined was best.
So what’s better? Jean Tabaka, in Collaboration Explained, suggests writing the agenda items for a work session as questions. I have found this to be a great way to do agendas, for all the reasons Jean lists in her book, but also for this reason: it’s a fantastic structure you can use to reflect back to the team when it *seems* they have gone off topic. Since these are questions, rather than topic bullets, they are self-explanatory and specific. Using the questions as a structure, I can now say: “Where are we in this list of questions? Are these the right questions now?” Using the agenda questions this way, rather than leading with my judgment that they are off topic, clearly lets them know that I am their servant leader.
Try it and let me know what happens