If you are running or attending a meeting, preparation is critical to productivity. The Havard Business Review gives some sound advice on meetings with their guide to running meetings (Amy Gallo) which cites the importance of the agenda.
“Always set an agenda out ahead of time – and be clear about the purpose of the meeting.”
It’s hard to imagine more sound advice about meetings. Axtell and Gino agree that designing the meeting and setting an agenda ahead of time is critical. “You should explain what’s going to happen so participants come knowing what they’re going to do,” says Axtell. In her book, Sidetracked, Gino talks about how lacking a clear plan of action is often why groups get derailed in decision-making. “Having a plan gives us the opportunity to clarify our intentions and think through the forces that could make it difficult for us to accomplish our goals,” she says.
Further, HBR gives their advice on preparation of an agenda. Given the number of meetings and types of meetings, this type of agenda is more than is needed. However, it's hard to argue with the advice of getting clear on purpose. Roger Schwarz outlines this nicely:
We’ve all been in meetings where participants are unprepared, people veer off-track, and the topics discussed are a waste of the team’s time. These problems — and others like it — stem from poor agenda design. An effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before and during a meeting. It helps team members prepare, allocates time wisely, quickly gets everyone on the same topic, and identifies when the discussion is complete. If problems still occur during the meeting, a well-designed agenda increases the team’s ability to effectively and quickly address them.