Sample agenda and instructions for an offsite meeting to discuss improving management processes and approaches for a department.
What this is
An example agenda for holding an offsite meeting for all the managers in a software development department. This agenda was used by the managers in a 100-person software development department, as they found themselves dealing with growing complexity in their software system, a need for increased process maturity and management infrastructure as they took on more people and projects. The template shows the steps one organization used to combine input from their developers, plus brainstorming, prioritization, and solution definition among their managers, to identify the most important areas to tackle.
Why it's useful
Offsite meetings can be an important tool for a set of functional managers who are responsible for performance of many individuals on projects. The purpose of the offsite is to get everyone away from the office for a day or two to have time to work on broader issues than the project crisis of the moment. This agenda was adapted from one used by an organization that wanted to place increased emphasis on job satisfaction, efficiency and effectiveness in the department, and career path definition, and decided to get the managers together to work on those issues.
How to use it
The agenda for your meeting will be the result of preparation to understand what kinds of issues need attention in your organization, and decide how to attack them in the offsite meeting. So you'll do some preparation, then adapt this outline to work for your organization.
Generally these meetings come about because project performance has not been at the desired level (speed, lack of errors, etc.); or because the department is growing and new management approaches may be needed, such as more formality in areas like performance reviews and planning career paths.
The first step is to agree with your staff on what topics need brainstorming or problem-solving attention. The software managers in the department will have opinions and insights. Other non-management personnel will too! You can use surveys, lessons learned meetings from past projects or releases, or simple open issues discussions in team meetings to get a candidate list. A list of some issues collected from one software department is provided in this file.
Then set objectives for your meeting and create an agenda allocating timeslots to those topics. Our sample agenda shows how this particular software group allocated some time to brainstorming, some time to interim prioritization of issues, and finally time to make decisions about what areas to pursue first after the meeting.
You may want certain software managers to prepare materials, status, or initial suggestions in the areas identified for discussion, to speed progress in the meeting. However, nothing brought in should be considered "settled" up front. The offsite's purpose is to get everyone involved in and invested in finding and implementing solutions.
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