It's a way of assuring that the the meeting is about the things that are important to the people who showed up at the meeting. We've used the technique often at Transition Los Angeles and it works really well.
- We brainstorm what people would like to be on the Agenda for the meeting.
- We go through that list and prioritize items, dismiss those that can wait until the next meeting, deal with those that require simple answer or brief agreement, then allocate time to the discussion of each remaining subject.
The danger in prepared agendas is that there is a sense that somewhere "they" have set the agenda for the meeting and have decided in advance what will be discussed and even what will be decided. It is centrally important that any sense of this kind of hijacking of the group's intentions is overcome. We start the meeting with a blank sheet of flip-chart paper, and as we do the introductory go-round, we write up the issues and questions that people want to see put on the agenda.