Is Agenda Theater Ruining Your Meetings?

Like triaging our inboxes, clearing our Slack messages, or managing our to-do lists, preparing an agenda can make us feel like we’ve accomplished something. And when we go through our detailed, bulleted agendas with our colleagues before or during a meeting, it sure feels like productivity is happening. But research shows that these feelings may in fact be leading us into the trap of agenda theater: We sink time and effort into agendas that create the appearance of effective meetings, without actually improving how meetings are run (and potentially even leading to less effective, overly-structured meetings). To avoid falling into this trap, the authors argue that we should take an outcome-centric approach that’s focused on simply defining the goal of the meeting — what we want to achieve, and why — rather than attempting to create a detailed agenda that describes exactly how we’ll achieve that goal in advance.

It’s no secret: most meetings are…

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This article was written by Ashley Whillans and originally published on