When to use this exercise
This is a classic business technique used to keep meetings and workshops focused on track. During discussions, questions will often emerge that are important but not fully relevant to the focus at the moment. These questions or issues are “parked” on a flipchart, to be addressed and answered later. This practice helps ensure that important questions do not get lost and helps keep focus on the relevant matters for the time being.
The purpose with this technique is to acknowledge an issue, write it down and park it to keep other more important things for the present time on track, and get back to the parked issue when you have time.
- At the beginning of a meeting/workshop or before, place a chart labeled Parking lot on a wall. Include labels what, who and deadline. If you use Parking lot for the first time explain its purpose to everyone at the beginning. Gain their approval to
use this technique as needed throughout your meeting.
For example: “As you know, our meetings sometimes get off the subject and we end up spending our time on issues outside the agenda. I suggest that when this starts to happen, we chart those issues on a Parking lot chart for later discussion. That way, we will remember to come back to the issue later, but still be able to accomplish our meeting’s goals. What do you think? … I encourage you all to help me note when our conversations are getting off track.”
- When the conversation sways off track with an issue worthy of
consideration but off the topic under discussion, briefly stop the
meeting. Write a quick synopsis of the issue, with permission from the
group, on the Parking lot chart.
Note: With issues that are trivial, politely remind the group that the meeting is getting off track. If you are not sure if an issue is worthy of the Parking lot list, ask the group what they think.
- As the last agenda item, go back to your
Parking lot list. Decide, as a group, how to address each item. Some
issues may be appropriate for discussion at your next meeting. Others
may be more appropriately handled by a subset of the group or even by an
individual. Some issues will no longer seem important and will be
dropped. During this discussion, document “who” will do “what” by “when.” This ensures that issues will be addressed. For example: “Henry and Anna – make recommendations for new project – at next meeting.” “Carl – emails information on product risks – by Friday 14 June .” Write the information directly on your Parking lot chart and include it in the notes/minutes of your meeting.
Note: Be sure to save enough time at the end of your meeting to do this step. If you fail to go back to your Parking lot before the end of the meeting, you lose credibility. People will be reluctant to have their issues permanently left and forgotten on the Parking lot chart.