A Complete Guide: Planning a Decision Making Meeting

You have a meeting to make a decision, not to decide on a question

— Bill Gates

Do your meetings keep parroting discussions that you’ve already had? What’s the best way to plan a meeting where your goal is to wrap up with a clear path forward? Before we come up with best practices for planning the meeting, let’s identify the challenges that lead to a Decision Making meeting ending without a decision being made.

  • No expectation(s) set before the meeting.
  • Not enough information sent before the meeting for attendees to be fully prepared.
  • Not enough time given for attendees to prepare for the meeting.
  • People are too far apart in their thinking for the meeting to lead to a decision.
  • No clear way for everyone to share their vote on the decision.

As we can see, being fully set for success for a Decision Making meeting can be fairly complex. Can proper preparation lead to a purposeful Decision Making meeting? Of course! Let’s take a look.

Also Read: A Complete Guide to Creating the Perfect Meeting Agenda

Set the type of meeting in the meeting invitation. This is an easy first step that goes a really long way in getting attendees to be aligned on the objective of the meeting. On your meeting invitation, make it clear to all attendees that the definition of success is to come to a decision.

Send information ahead of time. Your time up-front preparing and distributing all relevant content prior to the meeting allows users to come ready for the topics you’re looking to resolve. Empowering everyone with the same knowledge in advance has the additional benefit of having people on equal footing,  so no one feels like they’re wasting their time while others are getting up to speed.

Book meetings at least 48 hours in advance. It’s hard to book things way in advance, especially when a meeting is to make a decision that a company needs to move forward on quickly. The minimum suggested notice for booking a meeting is 48 hours in advance. It may seem tempting to reduce that window, but ultimately you won’t achieve your goal of making a quality decision if people haven’t had enough time to prepare discussions.

Talk with people before your meeting. When your goal in a meeting is to make a decision, you likely have different people you need to converse with in advance. Don’t be afraid of having smaller one-on-one meetings with people prior to a larger group meeting. These earlier conversations will often help you build better content for distribution prior to bringing people together and will help you refine your own presentation.

Determine your voting method before the meeting. There are a few options for how you can come to an actionable decision. Think about these ways prior to the meeting and communicate up-front how the decision will be made. This will help participants understand where their input is most needed.

Consensus Options:

This is often viewed as the quickest and fairest way to vote, though it’s not without some friction.

Voting is most often public, which can put people in a win/lose situation.

A really cohesive team can use a group consensus vote effectively.

A really cohesive team can use a group consensus vote effectively.

Not everyone may agree on the decision but everyone agrees to give that direction their full support.

For example: “I’m not convinced this solution will solve the problem 100% but I’ll implement it as fully as possible.”

For this voting method to work the participants are vocal during the meeting.

The leader listens to all the information being shared and then is responsible for arriving at a decision.

This method is most effective when there’s a short time to make a decision or when navigating a crisis.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

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