Many of us spend a lot of time in meetings. From team huddles to 1:1s to cross-departmental deep dives, they are a key way work moves forward. However, meetings are expensive, and they need to be kept focused to maximize the investment and time of everyone involved.
The tangent is one of a meeting’s chief enemies. Picture this: A meeting is going smoothly, and the team is making progress on the objective at hand. Suddenly, a participant offers a well-meaning idea or thought. It’s interesting, but not quite on topic. Seconds later, the idea has gone rogue and sucked up the focus of the entire room.
This is where the Parking Lot can help. It’s literally that—a place to park thoughts and ideas that bubble up through the course of conversation. The trick is to make the parking lot public so it can be seen by all participants at any given moment. A whiteboard is great for large meetings. For small huddles, a piece of paper will suffice.
Whenever a tangent begins running away with the conversation, anyone can declare, “Let’s put it on the Parking Lot.” Like magic, the tension is released as people watch the idea get logged, then return to the task at hand. By giving the idea a home, you avoid suggesting the idea or thought is not valid, while also asserting the importance of staying focused.
Over the course of the meeting, you’ll log any number of items on the Parking Lot. When you’ve resolved the key topic at hand, you can return to the list and figure out where they should go. Some might be killed on the spot—neat ideas, but not for right now. Others might spin up a follow up conversation. But most important, you’ll have accomplished what you set out to achieve with the meeting in the first place.
Also published on Medium.