5 tips to make your meetings Agile

Using Agile Scrum in software development teams I realized that it provides a set of common sense rules that can be successfully applied to other aspects of business.

Meetings are one of the major cause of productivity loss for a structured company while they are fundamental for healthy business. Here 5 rules, I stolen from Agile Scrum, you can apply to organize more effective meetings.

  1. Focus on 1 clear objective.
    Like a good User Story, a meeting has to be well defined and atomic. Meetings can be grouped in 3 basic aims:
    - Informing or updating, 
    - Decision-making or problem-solving, 
    - Training or brainstorming. 
    If your meeting has more than one objective split it in 2 or more smaller meetings. Exactly as you do with Epic User Stories.
  2. Define meeting duration.
    In Agile Scrum all meetings have a defined duration depending on how much work need to be done. Set a clear timing for your meeting and respect it. Almost any meeting objective can be reached in 45 minutes or less. 1 hour long meetings or, even worse, meeting without defined timing tend to open up off-topic discussions and disengage people.
  3. The more the merrier; the fewer, the better fare.
    When planning a meeting try to limit the number of participants as much as possible. Think about Scrum team size (6+3 people) or Jeff Bezos 2 pizzas rule. In crowded meetings it is difficult to keep focus and stay on time. When more than 10 people are in a meeting, some will easily end-up creating subgroup discussions or engaging in more interesting activities on their phones.
  4. Make sure everyone is committed
    In Agile Scrum the whole team is committed and take responsibility for results. Do the same with your meetings, make sure everyone is committed in the meeting objective. Avoid defeatists or not engaged participants, they are able to destroy the whole team morale.
  5. Provide lean documentation.
    Like in Agile development, you should provide meeting participants the right amount of documentation before and after meetings. Provide a clear list of points to be discussed a couple of days before. Right after the meeting send a report with clear actions to be taken.

The provided suggestions will look like obvious actions to most people, but common sense is unfortunately often lost in extensive teams. That’s where an adaptable and lightweight framework such as Agile Scrum becomes a useful resource.

Last advice for Agile meeting: test and iterate. Always question the effectiveness of your meetings and their structure, ask participant their opinions about the format and look for improvements.

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