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Tuesday
Jan242012

Why "Any Other Business" (AOB) should be banned

Have you ever noticed that there are often more topics up for discussion under the "Any Other Business" title than there are on the whole of the rest of the agenda?

AOB is an excuse. It is an excuse to be lazy in preparing the agenda and it is an excuse for attendees not to bother thinking about the meeting in advance. Having AOB on an agenda is a sign post which clearly points to mayhem. It should be banned.

Disallowing AOB from meetings prevents run-on and painful meetings. It prevents spur of the moment decisions and it prevents the poorly organised people from dragging everyone else down into chaos. Here's how:

 

  1. Without the catch-all AOB you are forced to think carefully about what should actually be on the agenda and what you are trying to achieve with each agenda item. If you have the AOB safety net it encourages you into a "that's good enough" way of thinking. "I've got most of the agenda items and we'll pick up on any missed points later". 
    When planning a meeting it is essential to plan each agenda item carefully and write down what you want to achieve with each item. This ensures that when people prepare for the meeting they know what is expected and they understand what everyone is trying to achieve. This in turn helps people work together towards a shared goal rather than being antagonistic.
  2. People can't prepare for a meeting properly if they don't know what to prepare for. Allowing AOB means that often only one person (the person that brings up a point of AOB) has prepared. Everyone else is forced to make snap decisions. That is rarely a good thing.
  3. Disallowing AOB forces attendees to engage with the meeting agenda further in advance. They know that they need to look at the agenda and if they have anything to add they need to mention it early. This means that they think about all the items on the agenda in advance.
  4. With a well written agenda item you can often predict how long it will take - not always but often. This means that you can keep a meeting running on time. Nobody likes meetings that go on way over their allotted duration. Allowing AOB gives you a massive unknown at the end of your meeting; a big excuse to keep talking way after the meeting should have ended. It is a recipe for discontent among the attendees.

 

If you want to have better meetings and be more efficient, follow these tips to eradicate AOB:

 

  1. Don't put it on a meeting agenda ever again.
  2. Tell people in advance what you are doing and why. Nobody likes surprises so be open. Tell them that AOB is a chief cause for the meeting pain you are all suffering and that you want people to enjoy painless meetings.
  3. Make it clear to attendees that if they want to discuss something in a meeting they need to let you know in advance so you can put it on the agenda.
  4. Always circulate the agenda well in advance and give people time to add agenda items. 
  5. Set a deadline for adding items to the agenda - if you accept new items at the last minute how is that different from AOB? The deadline needs to be sufficient for you to circulate the final agenda and give everyone sufficient time to prepare.
  6. Be tough: people will whinge at the end of the meeting "but it will just take a couple of minutes to discuss this". No exceptions! If you are quietly tough and stick to the policy people will quickly learn to plan in advance. If you make just one exception all of your hard work will quickly be undone.

 

So, try it. Ban AOB and take a step to more productive and less painful meetings.

 

 

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