Many meetings I have attended fit into one of two categories when it comes to their output; no-action or shotgun meetings.
The no-action meetings are the ones where the discussion goes on and on and on. New thoughts or perspectives pop up all the time, or the participants get stuck in one detail and dig down so deep that they never find their way out. You leave the meeting feeling more confused when you entered, and you have no idea what the next step is.
The shotgun meetings are the opposite of this. There is no time for discussions, and every other sentence is a new action that should get done as quickly as possible. All actions are written down and assigned to different people, many who are not even there. You leave the meeting with way too many things to do, and you end up not doing most of them.
I don’t believe there is a right balance between no actions or too many actions. I think we need one-action meetings where we prioritize so much that we just end up with one change at the end. Most organizations can not handle much change at the same time. People do not have the time or the focus to implement new changes. So at the end of the meeting instead of creating long lists of actions, ask the simple question:
If we could only do one of these things, which one would it be?
It is a difficult question to answer, and it will probably evoke some conflict but if you can find one action to implement it is much more probable that it will get done than if you try to achieve ten. It is also much easier to follow-up one action than lots of actions.