Organizational Developmental Consultant

20 Techniques to Improve Meeting Productivity: #5 Parking Lot

December 19, 2013

In my last 4 blogs, I gave you specific techniques for defining and controlling meeting behavior.  They included:
1. Introductions
2. Clearing
3. Ground Rules
4. Pulse Check

Next I’ll provide the techniques to keeping your meeting on track.  These will include:
5. Parking Lot
6. Verbal Warnings
7. The Bell
8. Three P Statements
9. Shredded Questions
10. Self-Management
11. Go/No Go

Today’s blog focuses on 5. Parking Lot

            “Our meetings are continually spinning off onto tangents unrelated to our original agenda.  We never accomplish what we originally set out to do and everyone is frustrated, including me.  What can I do?”

#5: PARKING LOT

What is PARKING LOT?

PARKING LOT is a productivity technique for effectively dealing with distracting but important non-agenda items that arise during the course of your meeting.

Non-agenda items always seem to find their way into meetings.  It is important to honor and recognize the existence of these important non-agenda items, but without interrupting the focus and goals of your meeting agenda. PARKING LOT involves recording these tangential issues on paper, insuring that they will be remembered and addressed, but without interrupting the ongoing conversation.

PARKING LOT is another basic productivity technique that can be used to support your group’s GROUNDRULES, Technique #3, for “Keeping on Track.”

When Do I Use PARKING LOT?

• When the meeting gets off track with issues worthy of discussion or action but unrelated, or tangential, to the current agenda item.

How Do I Use PARKING LOT?

1. At or before the beginning of each meeting, place a chart labeled PARKING LOT on the wall.

PARKING LOT

What                                      Who     By When

 

 

The first time you use PARKING LOT explain its purpose with the participants at the beginning of your meeting.  Gain their approval to use this technique as needed throughout your meeting.

For example: “As you know, our meetings often get off the subject and we end up spending our time on issues outside our agenda.  I suggest that from now on, when this starts to happen, we chart the tangential issue on a PARKING LOT chart for later discussion. That way, we will remember to come back to the issue later, but still be able to accomplish our meeting’s goals.  What do you think? … I encourage you all to help me note when our conversations are getting off track.”

2. When the conversation sways off track with an issue worthy of consideration but off the topic under discussion, briefly stop the meeting.  Write a quick synopsis of the issue, with permission from the group, on the PARKING LOT chart.

NOTE: With issues that are trivial, politely remind the group that the meeting is getting off track.  If you are not sure if an issue is worthy of the PARKING LOT list, ask the group what they think.

3. As one of the last agenda items to your meeting, go back to your PARKING LOT list.  Decide, as a group, how to address each item.  Some issues may be appropriate for discussion at your next meeting.  Others may be more appropriately handled by a subset of the group or even by an individual.  Some issues will no longer seem important and will be dropped.

NOTE: During this discussion, document “who” will do “what” by “when.” This ensures that issues will be addressed. For example: “Sam and Rebecca – make recommendations for new building site – at next meeting.” “Carl – sends information on product exposure through E-mail – by Friday, 9/8.”

Write the information directly on your PARKING LOT chart and include it in the minutes of your meeting.

NOTE: Be sure to save enough time at the end of your meeting to do this step.  If you fail to go back to your PARKING LOT before the end of the meeting, you lose credibility. People will be reluctant to have their issues permanently left and forgotten on the PARKING LOT chart.

In Summary:

PARKING LOT is a technique for dealing with the tangential issues that threaten to take your meeting off track.

1. Post a chart labeled PARKING LOT on the wall.

2. When the conversation sways off track, briefly stop the meeting.  Write a quick synopsis of the issue on the PARKING LOT chart.

3. As one of the last agenda items to your meeting, go back to your PARKING LOT list.  Decide, as a group, how to address each item.

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