Time limits on agenda items for meetings
From: Rob Sandelin (floriferousmsn.com)
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000 09:04:43 -0700 (MST)
One of the subtle things to be aware of  is that putting time limitations on
agenda items can pressure the group. At times this can be a good thing. It
can be a bad thing if comments, concerns or issues don't get raised because
of time concerns, and then you make a poor decision because you missed
something that could have improved it. If there is only a  few minutes left
on the artificial clock limitations then someone who has what might be a
great idea, but feels it will take too much time to discuss, may withhold
their idea.

Time pressures can be avoided if you use vague time limits instead of
precise ones. For instance, as you prioritize the agenda, you can put the
important things at the top then check this in with the group with a general
limit first. For example, in a set a 4 agenda  items, where one is an
important decision, you might check this in by evaluating and comparing the
agenda items, "This decision seems to be the most important of the items on
today's agenda. I think we will want to spend most our time working on this
one. Do I have  the priority right?"

Then assign a time mentally for a mid process check, and if you want you can
check this back with the group: "In an hour or so we will take a break,
evaluate the process and maybe change directions if we are not close to
having a decision".

Another thing that  happens when you run clock precision meetings, is that
the facilitator may really believe that keeping the time is more important
than creating a good process and the rest of the group may begin to believe
that as well. A good consensus meeting is not necessarily one that keeps to
the schedule but rather one that draws the best energy and ideas  out of the

Rob Sandelin
Community Works!

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l [at] freedom2.mtn.org
[mailto:cohousing-l [at] freedom2.mtn.org]On Behalf Of Brian Baresch
Sent: Monday, December 18, 2000 10:22 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Cancelling, Scheduling Special Meetings

>I agree that a presenter may not know exactly how long a discussion will
>take, but a presenter (either an experienced individual or committee)
>be able to guesttimate how much time it will take to achieve whatever goal

>they have in mind.  That said, some goals are easer to predict time for
>others.  The more serious the issue and the closer to consensus you need
>get, the more difficult it becomes to predict, especially with larger
> Be generous with more serious issues, then add more time.

We've found that this works -- the presenters estimate how much time an
item will take, then the timekeeper watches the clock and keeps us aware of
how much time we're taking. If it looks as if we need more time, the group
decides whether to extend discussion, drop the subject, or defer it to next
week (or to a committee).

If it looks as if we'll run out of time, we decide whether to let the
meeting go long (child care is a frequent concern) or shorten or defer some
items. So far it's gone smoothly.

Best regards,

Brian Baresch
Delaware Street Commons
Lawrence, Kansas

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