10 Processes For Organizing Your Team’s Meetings
Here’s a riddle for you: in a one hour meeting with eight team members, how much time is spent? If you say, “one hour” — you’re wrong. At least eight hours are spent, because eight people have spent one hour. If you say, “eight hours” — you’re wrong. Because you’re not factoring in scheduling, agendas and other preparation before the meeting, or notes, follow ups and other actions taken after the meeting.
The point being: meetings are expensive. They are a primary coordination cost in most companies. So how do we make them effective?
Meetings are often ineffective because participants just show up, talk, leave and forget. Meetings become effective when participants show up prepared, discuss and make decisions, and leave with clarity on next steps.
But to do that takes work. The problem is not that people are lazy; the problem is that they have better things to do than prepare for and follow up on meetings — and not everyone can afford a team of full-time assistants… until now.
These are just nine Invisible Technologies for meetings. But there’s no limit to how many custom processes you can have running in the background.
Over time, your team’s priorities will evolve. This month, the focus may be on hitting a sales target. Next month it may be product design. Your S.I. will ask you to update these priorities. And before each meeting, your S.I. will remind you of them — and ask if they’re still relevant.
When your management priorities are clear to the team, it is easier to surface misalignment. If one of your team members disagrees with your priorities, they can discuss it with you immediately and directly.
There will always be more things to discuss than there will be time to discuss them. How do you manage that? Have everyone submit topics to your S.I. Then your S.I. can present the team with a list of topics to upvote and downvote.
If you’d like, your S.I. can require a description before a topic can be voted on — or even a written argument for why it is important. Or even, that Discussion Topics be paired with a proposed Decision.
As your set of Topics grows, categorizing them will become important. Your S.I. will propose a taxonomy, and evolve it based on your feedback.
By default, there are two types of Topics: Discussion Topics and Demo Topics. You can add new types at your discretion.
Agendas enumerate the Topics that will be discussed in a Meeting, and provide time estimates for discussing each one.
If you’d prefer, you can have a written Agenda prepared for all meetings. Your S.I. can even request an agenda while scheduling with external parties.
If you’d like, you can make this preparation required for participation. Your S.I. can send reminders, or even block time on everyone’s Calendar beforehand — to make sure it actually gets done.
There will be a Discussion for each Topic on the Agenda. Discussion documents summarize the flow of the conversation, and capture the essential points during any analysis or debate. Discussions result in Decisions — which your S.I. will save as nested or paired files.
Discussions do not need to happen in a live Meeting. Asynchronous Discussions can be carried on over Slack, Email or any messaging platform.
Conducting Meetings virtually with asynchronous Discussions frees up time during live Meetings for the kinds of Discussions that you can only have live.
Demos are reports, presentations or innovation demonstrations. They don’t necessarily result in Discussions or Decisions, but they can!
Every Meeting can be recorded. Audio and Video Recording files can be saved and categorized for you. If you’d like to pay for manual transcription, you can have any of your Recordings transcribed. As automatic transcription improves, we can organize the resulting data into Discussions, Decisions and other data types for you.
Discussion Files are Team Notes, but every individual at a Meeting may take private Notes — with their own perspectives, analysis and thoughts. These can be saved in your digital brain, and shared with your team, if you wish.
9. Follow Ups
Decisions made during Meetings usually involve delegated implementation Tasks. It is very important to capture these next steps, and make sure they are taken. Your S.I. can chase participants to make sure that next steps are sync’d, saved and prioritized — so there are no dropped balls; and projects stay on track.
At our company, we’ve intentionally made it difficult to schedule meetings with more than three participants, because smaller meetings are so much more engaging, efficient, effective — and fun. If you’d like to design special Meetings Protocols, you can do that too.
There’s no limit to how advanced your Meetings processes can become. For example, if you are a Project Manager, you can have your S.I. automatically schedule short Meetings to resolve blocked Tasks in real-time — so they don’t pile up.
With practically infinite operational resources at your disposal for the first time in history, work is no longer the limiting factor. The true labor is the labor of the mind — can you think of a better way to do things?
Using these Meetings processes, we systematically eliminated inefficiencies in our Meetings. Although there are still endless opportunities to improve, we saved so much time — that we spend one hour every week in an all-hands meeting just to shoot the shit, no agenda.
Shoot the shit, no agenda — by pursuing efficiency to an extreme, we arrived at the luxury of inefficiency. May you so arrive.