There are a lot of foundational ideas how to get most out of your meetings. For example, having a facilitator, clear goal, upfront agenda etc. Following are some ideas that I haven’t come across so often. I have found them very useful when working at TransferWise but also over the years when I worked as a consultant with external customers.
Share a proposal upfront
A lot of meetings tend to be some kind of brainstorming. Unfortunately it isn’t very efficient way of generating ideas in a group setting. In most cases it is much better to share a proposal among the participants before the meeting. This gives people time to get to know the problem. They can share their comments upfront so that the meeting will have a solid basis to kick off from. Of course this only works when the participants actually read it before coming to the meeting.
Writing a good proposal is an art of itself. One thing I have found very useful is having specific examples instead overgeneralising things.
Limit number of participants
In general meeting efficiency tends to decline the more participants we have. The reason for this is trust or the lack thereof. Just like trust is the biggest contributor to the success of teams it is also huge contributor to the success of meetings. After all a meeting as a gathering of people has quite similar group dynamics as forming a team.
For a closely knit team working together daily this is much smaller issue. However, this principle is very valuable when teams who haven’t collaborated that much in the past need to do something together. In that case it can be useful to first have a chat with just one person from the other team. Then over time this person can become the ambassador for introducing your ideas in her team.
Address fear of missing out
In general it is quite wasteful to have people attend a meeting just to make sure they will not miss something important.
Ways how to mitigate this are:
- sharing meeting agenda upfront
- sharing a proposal upfront
- sharing the results of meeting and allowing additional feedback come in even after the meeting
Share meeting minutes as you write them during the meeting
Sharing the notes as they get written with the participants is very powerful technique. It helps making discussion and decisions more succinct and less ambiguous.
For a collocated meeting whiteboard can be quite effective. For a remote meeting share your screen via video feed or use an editor that supports live editing like google docs.
Minimise time between discussion and execution
We want to minimise the time between making a decision and acting on it. This follows the idea of the last responsible moment for making a decision from lean thinking.
If the result of the meeting is that we update original proposal but then that proposal does not get executed then we have just managed to create some more waste. Just like we want to minimise the amount of goods sitting in our warehouse we want to minimise the amount of documents waiting for someone to act on.