In principle, when we are meeting as a group to make decisions it helps if everyone knows what we expect to achieve (meeting objectives) and how we expect to achieve it (agenda and ground rules).
Naming the objectives up front minimizes chances for mismatched expectations. The objectives also provide an anchor if things start to go adrift.
Agendas also help people know what to expect. And when the group agrees to a specific agenda it serves as a mandate to move from one item to the next in a deliberate and honorable way.
Ground rules also help us be efficient. And they remind us to be respectful of each other. Ground rules are shared expectations about how we will interact.
All three — objectives, agenda, ground rules — combine to establish a safe structure within which creativity may flourish.
Practical Tip: At the start of every meeting review the meeting objectives, agenda, and ground rules, in that order, even if very briefly. It is helpful if group members agree to them (with revisions if necessary) and agree to implement them.
If it seems as if the group is straying from the agenda or if people are ignoring the ground rules, interrupt and point out the discrepancy. If wayward behavior persists, either ask for compliance or that the agenda or ground rules be changed to match the behavior.
When behavior gets out of sync with established expectations, safety fades, creativity suffers, and frustration results.
– Craig Freshley