Making meetings quicker and easier
Everyone hates meetings (except project managers, of course). They’re too long, too crowded, too distracted, and too boring. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad, but meetings are often done badly. In this article I offer a method to make meetings more Agile.
The Oxford Living Dictionary defines Agile as “able to move quickly and easily”, which is exactly what we want, so I’ll point out in this method with where it makes meeting quicker and/or easier.
First of all, let’s not ask “do we really need a meeting?” Meetings are good, meetings get stuff done. If our gut instinct tells us this would be easier by getting everyone into a room together, it’s usually right. This article isn’t about reducing or eliminating meetings, just making them quicker and easier.
Every meeting requires an agenda, or “what the meeting is about”. I word agendas as questions because it makes meetings quicker: “we’re here to answer these questions and once they’re answered we’re done”.
For a meeting to be useful it should have some kind of outcome: “we had a meeting and this is what we’re doing about it”. I use a list of actions for this to make it easier to focus the meeting. Actions are done by people, so let’s formulate them as “<person> to <verb> <something>”.
Now we can easily decide who needs to be in the meeting; it’s the person(s) who can answer the questions and the person(s) that can action the outcomes. By not overcrowding the meeting, we will also make it quicker.
Timelines for the outcome are a bonus, but let’s decide on them afterwards to make the meeting quicker. In fact, an action to establish timelines is a good outcome of a meeting.
Let’s put the agenda and outcome in the meeting invitation. We can email it to everyone as well to make sure they know why we’re having a meeting. This makes the meeting quicker by allowing our attendees to prepare answers to the questions in advance.
Now we’ve done the legwork, our meeting should be easy. Just ask those questions, get the answers, decide the actions, and get out of there!
Another thing that’s easier is that we don’t need to take meeting notes or minutes of a meeting: we can just email the outcome actions to whoever might be interested.
Example 1: Daily Standup
This is a great example because standups are often done just because the Scrum Guide says so, which means we’re not getting the full value from it, or no value at all.
So what’s the point of the daily standup? For me, it’s to flag problems and dependencies I need to fix, so here’s the meeting invite:
- What outstanding problems do we have?
- Andy to update the RAID Log
- Andy to email the updated RAID Log internally
Example 2: Payment Gateway Discussion
Say we’ve been discussing which payment gateway to use for a project but not decided yet. Let’s get the relevant people (and only the relevant people) into a room together to make a decision.
- How long will it take to implement PayPal vs SagePay vs Amazon Pay? (Technical Lead)
- What are the costs and setup time of each gateway? (Business Analyst)
- What is the User Experience of each gateway? (UX Artist)
- Andy to draw cost/benefit matrix
- Jordan (Product Owner) to decide which gateway to use
- Andy to email stakeholders with matrix and decision