I’m as technologically forward-leaning as the next guy, and I would put up quite a fight to keep my beloved PowerPoint, but when it comes to facilitating important business meetings there is one old-school tool that you should continue using – the lowly flip chart. Patented more than 100 years ago and a constant office staple ever since, there remains a very important role for the flip chart and its endless supply of fresh pages in today’s increasingly-digital office environment.
Don’t believe me? Hear me out.
Every meeting should have a point – to exchange information, to foster coordination, to think strategically, to align future plans, to course-correct. In almost every instance, the outcome of the group’s efforts (and effective meetings are an effort) will include the need for someone to follow-up by doing something the group agreed needs to be done by some date certain. Ensuring that everyone in attendance is crystal clear regarding follow-up expectations is a hallmark of an effective meeting. But how do you make sure that everyone is on the proverbial same page?
Whether I’m in the walnut-paneled board room of a global enterprise or the break-room of a start-up, before every meeting I facilitate I post a simple flip chart page in a prominent location. Titled “Action Items,” this page has only four columns – item number, “what?”, “who?”, and “by when?”.
Throughout the session, as the conversation generates follow-up items, I make a point of capturing those action items in real-time. And as each item is recorded, I ensure that what needs to be done, by whom and by when is agreed to by all attendees and clearly articulated.
Typically, this Action Items page is a fluid document, changing frequently over the course of the session. But it is always front-and-center for attendees. Everyone can see what follow-up expectations are being generated for whom.
At the end of the meeting, whatever items remain on the Action Items list become the primary work products of the session. As such, it is typically the first page (or more) of the meeting’s documentation. It is a manifestation of the group’s consensus regarding follow-up actions required to move the organization forward. And an important accountability tool for the meeting’s sponsor to use to manage the actual implementation/execution of the action items originally captured on the lowly flip chart page.