Everyone agreed it was a great strategy
meeting. The discussions were lively and productive.
Energy abounded. Ideas flowed. The team jelled and drew up a
forward-thinking plan for future growth. Participants returned to
their offices confident and ready to take on the world.
But soon that same team was floundering and frustrated. No
progress on the plan was made. Productivity lagged, and morale
headed south. The great initiative wound up dead on arrival.
What happened? When success quickly wilts and turns into
failure, the process has a fatal flaw, one common to many
organizations: The basics of follow-up have been neglected.
As the planning begins for a new meeting, one item on the
agenda always should be to develop ways to reinforce the
gathering’s message after the attendees have returned home.
Adhering to the advice that follows will help keep the mission from
collapsing when everyone gets back to their offices and their
Know the next steps. Lock the windows in the
conference room. Bar the door. Do not, under any circumstances, let
anyone leave the meeting until the steps for executing the plan
they have devised have been spelled out clearly.
If the follow-up isn’t articulated, all that creativity and
inventiveness that came out at the meeting becomes nothing but
daydreams. It’s like conceiving the idea for the wheel but never
actually building one.
People the projects. Likewise, nobody leaves
the conference room until each has been assigned a role in the
execution of the plan. Hand out tasks. Ask participants to
volunteer to see it through. Develop work teams. Assign specific
Identify the most talented people for the projects you have
decided upon, and give them their assignments. Or let people choose
the committee on which they will serve (everyone must find a slot),
because there’s often less procrastination when people have chosen
how they want to contribute. But the leader should be prepared to
make the final decisions and explain her choices regarding who does
At the end of an intensely productive meeting, there is a
temptation for everyone to pat themselves on the back and say,
“We’ll figure out the details later.” But what doesn’t get done
today might not get done tomorrow.
Set a timeline. If you don’t establish the
schedule, the next-step projects will wither on the vine. Not
knowing when the work is due gives its owner more flexibility than
he or she really wants.
Timeline triggers, report- due dates and firm deadlines
actually can energize those who have been given ownership to
execute their part of the plan. Deadlines also establish
opportunities for flagging unforeseen glitches in meeting goals
before it is too late, providing strategic moments for reassessing
the overall project and its components, and keeping the players
engaged in the team effort.
Select an enforcer. Every effective meeting
leader needs a powerful and persistent pest, an encouraging
enabler, as her right hand. This person just might be the most
valuable player on your meeting team, the one who will keep the
plan on track.
The enforcer doesn’t let the meeting end without accomplishing
the goals laid out above. Most important, he nudges each element of
the plan along every inch of the timeline. Of course, for this
person to succeed, the enforcer has to be empowered by the
Check the progress. Before leaving the
original meeting, schedule another gathering to check how the plan
is going and whether timelines need to be adjusted.