Facilitating Success in the First Task Force Meeting

Our organization facilitates hundreds of team and task force meetings. Through this work, we learned that the quality of the first meeting greatly impacts the success of the meetings that follow. You may not be surprised by the critical importance of the first meeting, however, what may be particularly astonishing is that, over time, the way that first task force meeting is facilitated has become very consistent.

Despite a wide variety of content sessions , which range from assisting garbage workers in develop­ing a plan for implementing two-person crews, to facilitating a task force on ending homeless, to guiding an executive team through strategic planning, the process we use in the first meeting is very similar!

Why has the first meeting become so consistent? Consider the goals of the first meeting.

We believe it is important to achieve a clear and common understanding of the following:

  • Why have we been pulled together and what is our overall purpose?
  • What do we need to have when we are done (what is our product)?
  • Are there probable issues that we will need to address?
  • How are we going to go about doing our work? What is our process?
  • Who is responsible for doing what? What are our resources and constraints?
  • Who needs to know about our progress? How will we communicate our activities?

Certainly there are numerous other questions that need agreement early on in the process, but, these six core questions provide a solid foundation for the task force to move forward.

The answers to these questions may differ from team to team. What follows is a sample high-level agenda for the first task force meeting.


Sample Agenda – The First Task Force Meeting

I. Welcome and Introductions

II. Charge to the Task Force

A. What is it that the Task Force has been asked to accomplish?

B. This is typically taken directly from the document which created the Task Force. During the facilitated session, a consensus check is taken to ensure agreement.

III. Key Issues

A. What are the key issues that must be addressed in order to ensure that deliverables meet the charge?

B. We often use this as an interactive sub-group activity which allows the Task Force members to identify individual perspectives and hot buttons early in the meeting!

IV. Key Deliverables

A. What are the critical documents or outputs that the Task Force must create to meet its charge?

B. A list of potential deliverables is created in advance and presented as possible alternatives. Once agreed upon, sample tables of contents are also provided. This technique allows the Task Force to “start with the end in mind.”

V. Proposed Work Process

A. What are the key activities that must be done to address the issues, create the deliverables, and meet the charge?

B. A proposed list of steps is presented to use as a starting point for the Task Force.

VI. Communications Plan

A. To whom should we provide updates on our status as we are going through the work process? How often should we communicate? What form should the communication take?

B. What should our policy be concerning Task Force members communicating with others outside the Task Force, including the press, concerning our status?

VII. Operating Logistics

 

A. How often should we meet? When? Where?

B. What will be our mode of decision making? Voting? Consensus?

C. What information will be documented about each meeting? How?

D. How will information about each meeting be distributed, internally and
externally?

If time permits, the work begins…

VIII. Next Steps

What are the things that need to happen between now and when we meet next?
Who is responsible for ensuring that each happens?


We extracted this high-level agenda from our  Team Acceleration Process course. While the agenda above is typically two-to-four hours, TAP is a three-day program and goes beyond the team orientation describe in the above agenda. As you design your own team activation process for your internal or external teams, you might want to consider other components as well. A full team activation process might include team orientation, the development of norms, team building, an understanding of individual styles and preferences, supplementing skills in critical areas such as interviewing or process analysis, and identifying risks and risk prevention strategies.

With a clear focus on where you are going, and a road map for how to work together to get there, your task force is ready to begin the nearly always bumpy ride to success! To learn more about facilitation skills, consider our course, The Effective Facilitator. The four-day course provides a structured approach for leading teams and facilitating meetings and covers more than 100 techniques for getting amazing results from groups.