Meetings often get off track when attendees go off on
unrelated subjects called rabbit trails. When someone gets on a rabbit
trail, they can easily be refocused to the meeting topic using simple
meeting management techniques.
There are two simple tools that may be used to refocus the
group before a rabbit trail goes too far.
One is to have a written agenda with timeframes and get
everyone’s agreement to that agenda at the beginning of the meeting.
The other is having a large written record of what the group
has accomplished thus far in the discussion. This can help keep the
group focused and can be used to bring interest back if the group seems to
be going in another direction.
only all team meetings were highly focused and rabbit trails were never a
problem, wouldn't that be grand. If a team is having problems with maintaining their focus in
most meetings, then it is time to do something. Try the discussion
activity below to help the team understand why they are having a problem
maintaining focus and then develop an agreed upon plan for future meetings
to avoid the problem.
Identify the discussion topic as "meetings lack focus."
Brainstorm a list of 10-12 possible causes for members losing focus
Identify the top 1 or 2 causes by combing like items on the list and then
allow each member to vote on 2 causes they wish to address. The 2 causes
with the most votes will be the top issues to address in next step.
Allow plenty of time for team to discuss possible solutions that may prevent
these 2 causes in future meetings. Be sure to focus on the issues and
not on particular members.
Have the team reach consensus of the best 1-2 solutions for the "meetings
lack focus" problem.
Get the team to agree to test
the solutions in their next 2-3 meetings.
After the test period, have the team quickly evaluate how well they think
their solutions are working.
Note: You may use the video below in step 1 to introduce the activity
or you may use as it an example for step 4.