QFD for meetings

Meetings are essentially a series of activities put together to achieve a number of objectives. In many cases these are not a simple 1:1 relationship. One activity can impact multiple objectives, and one objective can be served by multiple activities.

An efficient meeting is one where the activities work together to effectively achieve the objectives in minimum time. Efficient meetings are therefore ones in which the activities have been designed to make the fastest contribution to one or multiple objectives. QFD is probably the best tool for doing that?
QFD is essentially a matrix diagram which uses a grid to map the relationships between goals and processes, or in the case of a meeting, between meeting objectives and meeting activities.
QFD stands for Quality Function Deployment (translated from the Japanese). It is not a particularly pretty name, but it basically says what it does: It is a tool for DEPLOYING the QUALITIES of what you want to achieve by your meeting into the FUNCTIONAL activities that make it up.
QFDs are created very simply by listing your meeting objectives down the side of the grid, and by listing your meeting activities along the top of the grid.
The grid can then be used to explore how each meeting activity can best impact the objectives. This is achieved by going down each column and considering what the activity potentially (if it is designed the right way) contributes to each objective – leaving it blank if there is no real contribution, and numbering it 1, 3 or 9 depending on the potential strength of the contribution (using a bigger grid enables you to capture ideas on what that contribution might be).
It is then possible to look along each row of the grid, and to consider whether the combination of activities sufficiently ensure the delivery of that objective, or whether a new activity is required to achieve that (or an existing one modified). It can also indicate where a planned activity may be superfluous.
The collective scores in each column provide an indication of the relative importance of each activity to your meeting.
If your objectives are not all of equal weight, some simple maths can be used to recalculate activity importance. The scores are a useful indicator of the relative proportion of time you might want to allocate to each activity, both within the meeting and in planning the activity.
If you are developing a larger meeting with other people, the grid can be used to split up the task of designing the meeting, and ensuring the result all fits together. Alternatively, if you are developing the meeting alone, the grid indicates what you need to achieve through the design of each activity so that you can ensure the meeting is fully efficient.
Session Plans will help you to do this effectively.
If time is tight, the QFD can help you identify which activities can be diminished, or left out altogether by strengthening other activities.
QFD is not as time consuming as it first appears. A quick outline of a half day meeting can be achieved in less than half an hour once you are practiced at the technique. That might seem a lot, but in relative terms it only needs to shave 2% off of a 6 person half-day meeting to have paid for itself.  Even less if the meeting is one in a repeating series.
You can read more about the origins and application of QFD here: http://www.tesseracts.co.uk/Frame_32.html
An example QFD for a training course is shown below:

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