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How to collaborate effectively in Microsoft 365 on your agenda items, follow-up tasks and decisions (for management teams and Boards)

How to collaborate effectively in Microsoft 365 on your agenda items, follow-up tasks and decisions (for management teams and Boards)

This article is targeted specifically for Management Teams and Boards in both private and public organizations, as these teams usually need more structure in their meetings management (in order to live up to compliance requirements and to achieve long-term results). It is suitable for teams that are ready to move to the next level in their use of Microsoft 365 (from basic to intermediate) for their internal collaboration and communication.

Introduction

Many management teams are today using Microsoft Teams for their meetings and chat conversations (also Boards, of course). As the team matures into the platform, it is natural to start to wonder if there are smarter and more effective ways to manage the information of the team.

In this article I will describe how a team can work in structured and effective ways in Microsoft 365 with their meeting items and agendas. I have been helping a great deal of management teams and Boards to work in this way.

The most important work of a management team is to bring up important and urgent issues from around the organization, for reaching decisions and make sure actions are taken to implement the decisions.

So having an effective process around the work with the agenda items can be very useful for the overall functioning and results of the team. And not having a structured approach to the handling of the agenda items can on the other side be quite negative for the team.

This is what I’ve heard from the management teams that I’ve coached for using Microsoft 365, and with the solution that I’ll introduce to you in this article they have experienced a more structured approach with less misunderstandings and faster times to decisions and better evaluation of their decisions, among other positive effects.

Step 1 – Creation of a suggested agenda item

Each of the team members are invited to propose items for the agenda for upcoming meetings. They do this through a form that is accessible via Teams (the technology used is Microsoft Lists).

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When proposing an agenda item, the following information can be submitted:

  • Title of the agenda item
  • A description of the issue and why it is important to bring it on the agenda
  • The type of agenda item (e.g. decision, information, discussion)
  • Who is the person responsible
  • By when the latest the issue needs to be on the agenda
  • The expected time on the meeting
  • Any files with information that will be needed for the other team members to understand the issue

Step 2 – Evaluation by the agenda group

There’s an agenda group in the team (the chairperson + the secretary) who decide what go on the agendas for the team’s meetings. After the team members submit their suggestions, each member of the agenda group receives a notification that a new suggested agenda itme has been submitted and that a discussion thread has been created in the Team.

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Step 3 – Publishing of the agenda

When the agenda group has decided on which meeting a specific issue should be brought up, the secretary sets the date and time in the “On the agenda” field. In the default view of the list, the agenda items of the upcoming meeting is now showing.

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The secretary takes a screenshot of the agenda above, and pastes it into the meeting thread (that has been created by the chairperson). She mentions the team (@team’s name) and all receive a notification about the agenda and are able to start to prepare themselves for the meeting.

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Step 4 – Reading up on each agenda item

Each individual member is able to access the dynamic agenda (in the channel “Agenda items” and the tab “Agenda items”) and is able to open up each agenda item to get hold of the additional information such as the attached files.

It is also possible to start a conversation on a particular agenda item that you have questions for. By clicking on “Conversation” on the top right (see screenshot below), it is easy to start a conversation with anyone.

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The thread will be visible both next to the agenda item (as above) and in the tab “Posts”.

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Step 5 – Follow-up tasks

It is quite common that a management team decides to have more work done for an issue before it can take its decision (or close the issue). In order keep track of the tasks assigned, the secretary creates follow-ups tasks directly in the list of agenda items by clicking on “Create task” (see below).

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A flow in Power Automate is run when the secretary clicks on “Run flow” and the flow creates the task in the team’s plan in Planner. The assigned person receives a notification in Teams which takes him or her directly to the task (see below).

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Having the follow-up tasks of the team assembled in one place (in the specific plan in Planner) allows for an effective status check at the beginning of each meeting. The secretary brings up the charts view (see below) and the team is able to investigate together the status of the shared tasks and decide together what to focus on and what to act on.

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Step 6 – Decision log

To take better decisions faster is important for many management teams, and in today’s world it is also important to follow-up taken decisions and evaluate the effect of the decision (and possibly course correct). With a decision log integrated with the agenda items and the follow-up tasks, it is possible to work in a structured way with taken decisions.

After decision is taken at a meeting the secretary updates that particular agenda item with information on the decision.

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The value entered in the field for “Follow up decision” decides when a notification will be sent to the responsible person with a reminder that it is time to follow up on the decision. A discussion thread is created in the channel “Decisions” where the responsible person is able to bring in the rest of the team to collaborate on the evaluation of the decision (see below)

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With the follow-up analysis of the decision, this scenario of how a management team would be able to collaborate on its agenda items comes to an end.

Implementation

If you have been working in Teams for a while you shouldn’t have any problems to recognize the layout in the above screenshots. All of the solutions are based on the Out-of-the-Box features of Microsoft 365 which means that you will be able to implement the same solutions for your own team or Board (we can provide you with the technical details and show you how to get the solutions in place).

The part that can be the most challenging, and where you probably need to put most of your focus in order to succeed, is to get your team and its individual members to adopt these new ways of working. This would imply change management on a team level. It is likely that you already have been working with your internal change management, formally or informally, and thus have something to fall back on for this. If not, why not take the perspective of change management for the team for this? You surely would need a strategy and a plan for how to best collaborate and communicate together, within Microsoft 365.

How to go about this in a good way? Here are 5 tips from me based on my experience of having helped a number of management boards adopt Microsoft 365:

  1. Bring up the issue with the team, ask the members about their view on how you handle your agenda items today. You would be able to listen in on how people relate to the way you handle your information. You should expect a variety of answers, some might be aware of better ways of doing it and others quite happy to continue as you do it today.
  2. Let them know how you could be working with your agenda items. And the benefits of doing so. You could share a vision of how you see that you will work in the future.
  3. Plan for a gradual implementation. Introduce the new features in steps (e.g. you don’t have to include all columns for an agenda item from the start, you could wait with the decisions and the follow-up tasks to later on).
  4. Get the commitment of a few of the team members to help you in the new ways of working. Ask them to support you in working in the new ways.
  5. Make sure you have instructions for how to do things in the new ways. A great way to do this is to create pages for the instructions in the SharePoint Online website that belongs to the team. You link to these pages from where it is relevant (e.g. from the bottom of the agenda item form, from within the automatically generated discussions threads).

Next steps

If you are interested in learning more about this scenario, you are welcome to watch our free video series. The video series consists of 5 videos and they show selected parts of the scenario. At the end, you are invited to book a free call with me to get clarity on any questions you have and some input for your strategy and plan.