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Meetings. A Deeper Dive

Let’s keep it focused. Several people with their hands in a meeting.

TL;DR — Focus on the right people, talking about the right things, at the right time.

Previously we wrote a dissertation on why it’s valuable to focus on improving our meeting habits. Today I’ll dive into what an effective meeting could look like.

By focusing on a few key areas, we can find that we not only have more engaging meetings, that result in quicker and more valuable decisions but we will also find we have more time to get work done, and as a result, more time to enjoy our lives.

Why is this a Agile/Scrum thing? Because our time can be our biggest blocker.

I’ll refer to the Agile Manifesto to speak to that:

From the Agile Manifesto:

  • “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”
  • “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”
  • “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
  • “Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.”

And finally,

  • “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

The right people:

  • Not too many, not too few, the number isn’t the point. But it can be costly Estimate the Cost of a Meeting with This Calculator (hbr.org)
  • Not all that need to be informed need to be in the meeting. Can stakeholders be informed in another way? Would they prefer to skim an email than sit through a meeting?
  • Determine the key roles within a meeting and how we can communicate the results of the meeting.
  • If an email or slide deck communicates the message, then a meeting to talk through the deck is likely unnecessary.
  • Not all people need to be decision makers — Identify the roles of those involved in the process. Do we need all these roles in the meeting? We could try the McKinsey DARE method
  • Decision Makers
  • Advisers
  • Recommenders
  • Execution partners

Talk about the right things:

  • The Agenda is the roadmap. This should help us remain:
  • Focused: What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • On time: Respecting time is respecting each other.
  • Outcome driven: The result of a meeting should be to drive a decision, share information or be a creative discussion. Be clear on what the desired outcome of the meeting will be. (see image here)
  • Mine for Drama. Not all drama is bad. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat if things are unclear or we’re spinning wheels. Just make sure it’s related to the task at hand. How to run effective meetings, and thrive — Work Life by Atlassian

At the right time:

  • Just like jokes, timing is everything. If we meet too early, we make decisions on incomplete information, too late, and they tend to turn into unconstructive conversations.
  • When we don’t have enough clarity, get to next steps quickly. Simple questions to ask:
  • Have we done this before?
  • Has someone else done this before?
  • What is the bigger picture?
  • If we don’t know, don’t guess, find the way to get what we need.
  • Example: Talk for 10 minutes to realize that we need to do more research on how things are already working…
  • The length of time of a meeting is important. Anything over an hour is not going to yield good results. We don’t have the capacity to pay attention that long, nor do we actually have that much time in a day. Try not multi-tasking for a week and see what I mean…
  • Challenge ourselves to meet for less time. Start with half hour meetings only, and if we need more time, see if 45 minutes would suffice. The goal is not to rush, but to be as efficient as we can. 9 Science-Backed Methods For More Productive Meetings (fastcompany.com)
  • Parkinson’s is a real phenomenon How to overcome Parkinson’s Law (atlassian.com) | Parkinson’s Law | The Economist

Final thoughts:

Meetings are valuable when the meetings are valuable. Meetings can be the most powerful tool for working well together, and they can also be the biggest deterrent to us getting anything done. By focusing on having more effective meetings, we will likely find that we have the need for fewer or shorter meetings, more engaging meetings, and restore some of our productivity and passion for our jobs. Ultimately, by focusing on better meetings, we will also be creating a much more sustainable work/life harmony which will in turn help us Do and Be better.

Recommended reading:

Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold

Again, my thoughts are informed by many people who’ve already done the research. Here you can find all the links for reference. https://www.pinterest.com/pseamars/meetings/

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