What is this method?
To create a meaningful agenda on the fly. Sometimes we meet without an agenda. A flying agenda can facilitate the groups process.
How does the process look like?
The flying agenda is basically about facilitating a team process. The following description is very detailed not to be rigid about it, but for you to understand the thinking behind it. What matters is the spirit and the general idea of it. So feel free to adapt this to your context and needs.
The flying agenda method can be used when you realise two things: 1) there’s a meeting you are being part of that has no agenda yet and ii) an agenda is actually needed.
You propose to create an agenda “on the fly” and that you can take the lead on it, if nobody objects look for a flipchart and a pen. Event better it works with post-it’s that you can move around.
You ask “what is most meaningful to discuss/decide now?” and collect the suggested items - it shouldn’t be more than five. One on each postit.
The more specific the items are the better, e.g. collect them as finalised actions “item XY decided/written/agreed...”
Then you prioritize by one of the following options
a) choosing a person to make a proposal that then can be adapted,
b) “dotmocracy”; each person has 3 dots to vote,
c) ask “how long will we need to decide on our priorities” first and then let them figure it out while you time-box,
d) Everybody moves around the post-it’s until it feels right.
e) or any other process you know that is rather quick and doesn’t end up in endless conversations
When you have the prioritized agenda items in front of you, you calculate the remaining time for the meeting
Then you go to the first item on the priority list and ask, “in consideration of the time left, how much time do you think we need for this?”
You keep track of the conversation by helping the group stay focused on the agenda-item and by keeping a very active awareness of the time (almost to the point of being annoying). A good question to ask is: “what is the smallest/most little decision we can take now?” (Many times it makes more sense to agree on another meeting where a detail is to be discussed rather than discussing that now)
When coming to a new item calculate again the remaining time and repeat the question: “considering the time we’ve left and the agenda items we wanted to cover, how much time do you think we need for this?”
Repeat until done
When the announced time for the end of the meeting is coming closer, make the people aware of it and ask if a new decision is needed and possible (e.g. prolong the meeting or shift to a next meeting)
Your goal in that sense is to cover all items. Many times that is not really possible, but that depends also a bit on the mindset you as a facilitator have.
Needed tools, materials, people etc.
Time: according to your needs, from 15min to a day
Tools: flipchart and pens, post-it’s
People: this method works better with smaller groups from 3 to 8 people. But it can also work with very large groups when it is facilitated well.
Our Experience with this Method
This method came “flying” to us, when Erica from Impact Hub Lausanne came to our collaboratio home for a meeting we had scheduled some time ago. And, I (Osi) don’t know if this sounds familiar to you, but because it had been a while ago and we had both been very busy no one had actually prepared a meaningful agenda for our meeting. On top of it, we felt that time was short and that there were so many things to talk about that had so much great potential! So I decided to facilitate the meeting using what I then came to call “the flying agenda”. Practitioners of Sociocracy and Holacracy will probably immediately recognise the similarities.
In only 1 hour we had covered everything that we could think of and had taken many decisions that just felt right in the moment. Or differently said, the decisions we had taken truly reflected the information and alignment that was present. Everybody was a bit tired but mostly just feeling happy about the accomplishments of the meeting.