Have an Agenda

Wizard_oz_movieposter I just love it when people have an agenda — it means they spent time thinking about what they want out of a situation, and planning their behavior and content towards it.

Agendas are strong signals amidst a sea of noise. And it's a pity that the term has come to be associated with negative connotations.

Having an agenda in some circles means you are sneaky and selfish. Both are assumed, of course. It is not so.

Leaders, scientists, engineers, writers, teachers, and even marketers all drive towards an outcome — and they decidedly do that with a specific point of view.

Why do meetings with an agenda run better?

  1. you set expectations of what you'll cover
  2. and the time you will cover it in
  3. and provide a framework for taking notes

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary provides two definitions for the term "agenda":

  1. a list or outline of things to be considered or done
  2. an underlying often ideological plan or program

The Latin root of the word is the neuter plural of agendum, gerundive of agere, which means to act (agire in Italian). You guessed it, agenda shares a common etimology or origin with agent. It means these are the things you are acting on.

When you communicate about what you wish to do and intend to do in business, you do that for example in negotiation situations — we negotiate meaning in conversations and translations, too — in planning a direction, and much more, you share your agenda.

I suggest what makes us bristle when we hear the term "agenda", is the thought of hidden agendas. We all like tricks when the magician is performing. Any other kind, and we end up seeing behind the curtain sooner or later. It's like looking in the mirror.


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0 responses to “Have an Agenda”

  1. All agendas are hidden or private until we invite them to be made public (think Johari’s Window framework).
    In many cases I think the quality of a meeting’s agenda can be enhanced by inviting participants’ to share their agenda as well. once everything is public, we can talk about it, manage it, and quit making up our own narratives about why others are doing what they are doing.

  2. This is a great post, Valeria, and is setting the tone for my day. I completely agree that without an agenda, you (and your team) may become victims of those who do have an agenda — or action plan. It’s curious that those without an agenda are suspicious of those of us who have one. Agendas are “free” other than the time it takes to build one. But often there’s a cost of not having one.

  3. Having an agenda gives a direction for the meeting, allowing some time for veering off the agenda is a good idea because it gives participants a chance to chime, but I am a big believer in having an agenda, so that expectations are known.

  4. Agenda: We are here. We are going this direction. These are the waypoints we’ve plotted, should you wish to meet up with us along the way.
    I’m not a fan of business “road maps,” as they tend to present well-worn paths to common destinations, but not everyone is comfortable with embarking on a journey with no perceivable end.
    Agendas can be like GPS. There are waypoints along the journey where progress can be measured. The journey is broken into smaller, less frightening pieces.
    “We’ve made it this far. We can go further.”

  5. Great distinction between stated agendas and hidden agendas. That makes all the difference in the world.
    I LOVE stated agendas, as I think most people do since it helps set expectations and everyone communicate more clearly.
    Sadly, most people just wing it most of the time (yes, I’m guilty of this too)!

  6. I had a colleague who would not go to meetings for which she hadn’t received an agenda.
    She always said, “If you can’t tell me why we are meeting, and why it will take that long, you aren’t ready for a meeting.”
    A bit harsh, but in our busy world, it seems a good way to avoid meaningless meetings.

  7. Fascinating theme.
    There is a trick to all this – the best way to see a persons agenda is to allow self organizing meetings.
    Meeting agenda’s are instruments of power and fear.
    Open agenda’s are often subjugated by a meeting Agenda that exclude emergent conversation or exhaust time until there are only fragments to consider what might be more relevant to the those present.
    I’m intrigued by Tom’s colleague. I think its bad advice and a lazy rule to live by.

  8. @Jeffrey – I have been thinking about your comment since this morning. Indeed that is the case, and it prompts me to reconsider some of my communications.
    @Jim – it’s useful to have thought about an issue and present direction.
    @Nick – setting expectations and also leaving some room for new ideas is a good mix.
    @Brian – I sense an engineering mind working alongside a journeyman in this comment.
    @Mark – I do wonder, as many of you have brought it up implicitly, do people realize they have not stated they agenda?
    @Tom – are we optimizing our way out of relevance though?
    @Peter – more than once, I have found myself in a meeting where the real conversation started on the way back to various offices. Your comment about Tom’s colleague is the same exact situation I faced today. When IABC Heritage decided that the presenters decks should be made available for conference attendees several days ahead of the conference for the purpose of… (stated) to the one you describe.

  9. Having an agenda is a positive thing as long as one don’t feel he has to stick to it at all costs. While I value organization, I don’t like getting too strict, it kinda kills spontaneous creativity, if you know what I mean.

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