Are you in a team that is a slave to its agenda?

How frustrating is it to work really hard to gain that deeper shared understanding only to hit “we’ll have to come back to this”, when just 15 mins now could save hours later?

Our “Sticky Note Agenda” Team Tool might be of use, with its well-thought through principles, together with a way of using it when meeting virtually through tools like Skype for Business or WebEx.

Simple to use

On the face of it, the Team Tool is simple to use: if you are meeting face-to-face then as soon as you enter the room the paper copy of the agenda is “out of date”, and the living version is on a flipchart on the wall.

The agenda comprises just two columns of sticky notes:

  • A left hand column for time.
  • A right hand column for agenda items.


  1. The Sticky Note Agenda is always kept up-to-date, allowing a healthy balance of flexibility and a schedule you can rely on.
  2. A change to the agenda is re-contracted with the whole team – there are no surprises that catch any individuals out.
  3. To be respectful of invited guests, a special colour is used for these agenda items to ensure that the consequence of any changes is especially checked. Wherever possible, these agenda items are placed after breaks so that the team can welcome guests outside the room, so that the guests don’t feel like they’re waiting outside the headteacher’s office, and so that the team have broken their state from whatever they were previously working on.
  4. To be respectful of those outside the team trying to work with them, a special colour is used for breaks, again ensuring consequences are checked. Phone calls, or promising to respond to urgent emails, can then be scheduled by the team members with confidence.

When to be careful using this tool

  1. To excuse meeting discipline. It’s important that this approach isn’t just a way of allowing or encouraging a lack of good meeting discipline, and the behaviours that really help people engage. See Kirsten Campbell’s excellent article on how to get a word in edgeways.
  2. When a break for reflection would be helpful. Some topics and some people benefit more from a break or even changing topic, agreeing to come back to the original discussion. Those with an introvert preference will be very grateful for time to reflect. Mediators are taught to call for a break to take the heat out of conflict, allowing people time to manage their emotions. Sometimes the Sticky Note Agenda can help facilitate the re-contracting on when the team will come back to the discussion, especially if it is to be during the same meeting.

Sticky Note Agendas are especially useful

  • For complex non-transactional matters when it isn’t possible to know how much depth there is to a topic. Often, 15 mins now could save the hours later that it would take to get everyone back to up to speed with the logic and/or to re-gain the emotional moment
  • When sequence matters, e.g. when the later agenda items are only useful if decisions have been made on earlier items. This is quite often the case when teams are following a conditions-based model like the 9-Dimensions of Leadership
  • If there is too much to do, and a danger of feeling overwhelmed, and they would benefit from prioritising how they use their time
  • In times of fluid change. A Board I worked with recently had a date in the diary to meet, and changed CEO just 17 days before the meeting. It was critical that they met but there wasn’t time to craft the agenda as carefully as they would have liked. They were very grateful to have a Sticky Note Agenda that was “good enough” to get them started, and then allowed the wisdom in the room to re-shape it flexibly as they discovered what was really needed during the meeting itself.

Using this in Virtual Meetings

For meetings using tools like Skype for Business or WebEx, Sticky Note Agendas still work with just a few small changes:

  • Share a document holding the agenda, that anyone can display and edit
  • Use different colour fonts to replace the different colours of sticky notes depicting the different types of agenda items

If you have further tips on using Sticky Note Agendas based on your experience, we’d be delighted to hear them.