Design a Weekly Meeting That Works

Four Formats Explained

“While there had always been meetings, now there were meetings about meetings and the modern world was born.” A. Smith

Meetings can be a source of stress, nuisance, as well as significant time sucks. We’ve all experienced that sense of dread when opening our calendar and seeing a list of meetings booked for the day. More often than not, some of these meetings are entirely irrelevant to what we’re doing, others, somewhat relevant but where discussions tend to veer off and only part of the agenda ends up being covered.

In such circumstances, meetings can become frustrating and obstruct the work we do, especially when they’re spread throughout the working week. It’s no secret then that meetings amount for big losses in productivity, finances and time in an organization. The Harvard Business Review even has a tool to measure just how bad — and expensive, meetings can be.

is your calendar a hot mess?

Typically, one of the key issues with meetings is that they lack discipline and key ground rules of conduct. In your staple weekly staff meeting, you probably don’t have clear rules of engagement, agenda items are planned ahead, and discussion can range from the latest executive strategy to minute technical details that may be relevant to one or two attendees.

But what if meetings can be more than another administrative headache?

What if meetings didn’t have to begrudgingly conform to only being status updates?

What if instead meetings gave your team the opportunity to continuously push the organization forward?

The four meeting types that we’ve presented here are one way you could shake up your typical weekly staff meeting. Sprint planning, Retrospectives, Kanban-style, and Tactical meetings are a small step forward to make you more effective with your time at work and with how you interact with colleagues. These meetings have one thing in common in that they are process oriented and a programmatic way for you to enforce structure around a weekly meeting.

Each meeting format is a space where you get to bring anything to the table, to voice your opinions without being interrupted and having to interrupt others to be heard. They have a dedicated scope and purpose and digressions are often strictly forbidden.

Regardless of which option you choose after reading this piece, these meetings are ultimately designed to make it easy for everyone to voice their opinion in a safe space and at a safe pace.

Sprint Planning meetings

Weekly sprint planning meetings begin at the start of a working week. A product owner or team lead comes with a prioritized list of product or service backlogs that they want to resolve.

Product or service backlog items can include any operational issue – provided they can be completed during the coming week. Any item that is too large should be split into different components and each component should be able to stand on its own with all the necessary information to understand it.

The backlog list is discussed with the team and the group makes a collective effort to estimate how long it would take to process each item. The team then makes a forecast on what can be completed from the backlog list over the coming week. The selected body of work then becomes the sprint backlog for that week.

Backlog items are managed with a team’s velocity and capacity to solve tasks in mind. Velocity is based on the speed of completed tasks from the previous sprint plans. Capacity is measured based on each member’s ability to work i.e. total number of hours available and the percentage of time they can dedicate to each respective team. At the start, new teams may need to make forecasts based solely on the team’s capacity.

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Each weekly sprint planning meeting ends with a plan of action that includes a final list of backlog items that matches a team’s chances of successfully meeting their commitments.

Pro-tip: Use weekly sprint plans to flesh out the details of the work that needs to get done. Anticipate as many of the blockers, tasks ahead of the meeting and add them to the backlog.

Read more about Sprint Planning meetings

Retrospective meetings

Weekly retrospectives are held at the end of the week to discuss three things: what was successful about the week, what could be improved and how to incorporate successes and improvements into future iterations.

This meeting is usually a good time to find out what is working — so teams can continue to focus on these areas, and what isn’t — so teams can find creative solutions and develop an action plan.

Retrospectives are a unique opportunity to reflect on impediments and successful strategies that guide a team’s work. During those weekly sessions, members look for measures of continuous improvement that can drive the evolution of a team. This space creates an open, honest, and constructive atmosphere to air opinions and to share new developments.

Members can get the first look of a prototype, get feedback from the team, and adjust their approach team to keep doing things going well.

Pro-tip: Take a more casual approach to retrospectives and give them a celebratory feel. Gather the team for Friday lunch or happy hour drinks to share the week’s milestone — be it a new demo, product or service. Another option is for a project leader to send a weekly ship to all members that reflects on what was done, what’s ongoing, what’s coming up and what they need from others to move the work forward next week.

Read more about Retrospective meetings

Kanban-style meetings

Kanban is a framework used to visualize the workflow of a team (see photo below). It originated in Toyota’s plants as a lean Just-In-Time delivery system that improved efficiency without overwhelming the supply chain.

Kanban-style meetings begin with a huddle around a physical or digital board with several columns for different phases of a task. In a glance, team members get an idea on what’s being worked on, who’s working on what and where something is in process.

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The purpose of this meeting is to support different levels of granularity for work done by the team. These 30 – 45 minute sessions aim to promote transparency and to look at the week’s accomplishments or upcoming projects.

Round 1: Team lead gives a quick broad overview on any changes to current projects or new upcoming projects, assigning resources and members accordingly.

Round 2: Members look at the board to gain clarity on the workload. Each item owner comments on what’s been completed over the past week i.e. what’s in the Done list, and identifies items that haven’t moved since the last meeting.

Round 3: A nominated member then collects any of the bottlenecks and pain points that have emerged as next-step actions or new list items that are visible to all members.

Pro-tip: At The Ready, we use Trello, a free collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards, lists, cards, and checklists. We’ve got a shared board for all of our client projects and an individual board where members can collect, process and keep track of what they’re working on.

Read more about Kanban-style meetings

Tactical meetings

Tactical meetings are one of three meeting formats in HolacracyOne. They are brief and efficient sessions lasting no more than 45–50 minutes that each team starts/ends their work week with.

The purpose of a tactical meeting is to clear up any roadblocks preventing you from doing the work. Members meticulously adhere to following a six-step process :

Check in-round
Checklist Review
Metrics Review
Project Updates
Triage Items
Closing Round

The short and focused nature of tactical meetings allows teams to quickly align on how to accomplish their goals for the week ahead and eliminates the need for different threads and long chains of email to complete a task.

Pro-tip: At The Ready we consistently schedule our tactical meetings every Monday afternoon after lunch. It allows us to clear out any urgent items in the morning and to engage with other members to unblock the work early on in the week.

Read more about Tactical meetings

Which Should I Choose?

None of these meeting options are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Yet they have a lot of similarities because all will force you to change your way of working and remove obstacles preventing you from doing the work. Any option you choose should depend on the type of project you’re working on and the team you’re working with.

At the very least, these four options can become a workable next step that gives you more time to do the work and reduce the burden of meaningless meetings in the office. At best, they can stir the team forward with a shared sense of consciousness on the work of each member and keep the culture alive and in check each week.

Meetings begone, long live meetings!

Ready to change how you work? The Ready helps complex organizations move faster, make better decisions, and master the art of dynamic teaming. Contact us to find out more. While you’re at it, sign up to get our newsletter This Week @ The Ready delivered to your inbox every week.

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