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G-PP-AA: Five questions to ask at every business meeting you ever attend

[Reviewed 2015-04-26] It’s been my impression that many business-contract disputes could be avoided if the participants would just talk with each other regularly about five things. This makes me think that in almost any business meeting concerning a project or re­la­tion­ship, it’s a good idea to ask about those five things, with the acronym G-PP-AA:

1. Goals: What are we trying to achieve in this project or relationship, and why? [In some circumstances, Toyota’s famous Five Whys drill-down analysis might be helpful.]

2. Progress: What have we accomplished so far in achieving the goal(s)?

3. Problems encountered or anticipated: What if anything has gone wrong,and why? What could go wrong in the future? [The Five Whys might be helpful here, too.]

4. Action plans for the future: What is going to be done, by whom, when, to continue progress, and/or to address problems?

5. Assumptions: What are we implicitly or explicitly assuming, that might not be true?

This is just Management-101 stuff, to be sure. But it’s often over­looked, especially when things get busy or stressed.

That’s why, when I’m helping to negotiate contracts for on-going projects or re­la­tion­ships, I like to ask for a provision for periodic status-review con­fer­en­ces, with a reminder that these five G-PP-AA factors should be part of the agenda.

Here’s one version of such a contract provision, with extra para­graph­ing added for readability:

Status review conferences will be held at either party’s reasonable request.

(1) Such conferences will be held by phone or in any other manner agreed by the parties.

(2) The parties anticipate that agendas will typically include, as appropriate and without limitation, the following ”G-PP-AA factors”: (i) goals; (ii) progress made; (iii) problems encountered or anticipated; (iv) action plans; and (v) assumptions being made.

(3) Conference details will be arranged by the requesting party unless otherwise agreed.

(4) The requesting party will seasonably circulate draft minutes upon request; any participating party may object to the contents of draft minutes by seasonably so advising all other parties in writing.

Notes:

  • Some of this language isn’t strictly required, but is included to re­assure the parties that the provision isn’t going to be expensive or burdensome.  For example, under this language, if neither party ever asks for a status-review conference, none is required.  As another example, under clause 1, all conferences are by phone unless the parties agree otherwise.
  • Clause 2 intentionally doesn’t require the G-PP-AA factors to be dis­cussed; the reminder of those factors should be helpful.
  • Clause 4 provides for written minutes if requested. Meeting minutes can be especially important in documenting specific to-do as­sign­ments. Meet­ing minutes can can also help litigation counsel re­con­struct "what hap­pened, when, and why," if things go wrong.
  • In clause 4, the term seasonably is taken from section 1-204 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which defines the term thusly: An action is taken "seasonably" when it is taken at or within the time agreed or if no time is agreed at or within a reasonable time.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Adam 2010-05-17, 2:10 pm

    You claim to enumerate questions to ask but all you give are ideas to formulate questions about.

  • D. C. Toedt 2010-05-17, 2:30 pm

    @Adam, literally I suppose you’re right. My main goal was to come up with an easy mnemonic. I’m editing the main post with your comment in mind. Thanks for visiting.

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