Never “discuss” anything – ever!

2nd April 2024

In our house, Child #3 is revising for her school exams.

      What outcome do you think she wants from her revising?

      Yes, that’s right – to pass her exams!

And one of my friends is currently dieting.

      And what outcome do you think he wants from his dieting?

      Yes, that’s right – to lose weight.

There are some verbs – like “revising”, “dieting” – where it is obvious what the desired outcome is.

But there are some verbs where the desired outcome is NOT obvious.

For example, the word “discuss”. What’s the outcome of a discussion?

It isn’t obvious, is it?

And, if we don’t know what the outcome is, how do we know when we’ve achieved it?

Which means that, when I see an agenda item called “Discuss topic X”, I know this conversation will probably take too long, meander around, and won’t lead to outcomes.

Because we don’t know what its desired outcome is!

(And, as the saying goes: “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else”)

So, what word should we use instead?

Well, one that works well is agree.

Why? Because when you “discuss” something, you want to agree something as a result – like:

  • Make a decision
  • Agree an action
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Decide on milestones and deadlines
  • Agree that we don’t need to discuss it anymore!

So, next time you see the word “discuss” in an agenda:

  1. Ask yourself what outcome you want following that discussion; and then…
  2. Replace the agenda item to include this outcome, using the word “agree”

For example, we could replace…

  • Discuss Topic X

…with agenda items like:

  • Agree whether or not to continue with Project X
  • Agree our #1 priority with Project X
  • Agree the next Quarter’s milestones, responsibilities and timelines with Project X
  • Etc

Doing this makes everything quicker, easier and more focused on achieving the outcome.

A win for everyone (well, except for those people who love meandering, pointless discussions that achieve nothing. And we do NOT want to give these people more of what they want!)

Action Point

Change all your agenda items from inputs to outcomes. So, replace words like discuss/update/review with words like agree/decide/prioritise.

(Added bonus: because this will lead to quicker meetings, shorten your meeting durations. Imagine if you turned every 60-minute ‘discussion about X’ into a 45-minute ‘meeting to agree X’ – you’d save weeks every year … weeks that you would have spent “discussing” boring things)

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