Week 39, 2021 — Issue #171
Effective Meetings, Part 2: Get in Sync, Follow a Plan, Record your Decisions
Each week: three ideas on and about the future of work. This week: the second in a three-part series on effective meetings. Originally published in the newsletter on Oct 1, 2021.
Preparation is key to effective meetings. That was the key takeaway from last week’s issue. Time now to take one step forward in the Plan > Meet > Act process. Having done the prep work, how do we actually run an effective meeting? Let’s dig in:
1. Get in Sync
Begin your meeting with a quick check-in round. Ask your participants to share what’s on their minds and what they’re bringing to the table. This is a quick-and-easy way to break the ice. And it’ll help increase self-awareness and empathy amongst the participants. You might also want to consider a practice made famous by Amazon: give your participants time to read your supporting materials in silence at the start of the meeting. This way you can be sure you’re all starting with a shared understanding.
2. Follow a plan
I’ve been working in Scrum teams for the better part of a decade. And one of the things I really appreciate about that workflow is the structure of recurring meetings. It’s remarkably liberating to rely on a well-defined meeting structure. Because while the agenda and discussion will vary, I don’t need to think about the who, how, or when. I can afford to put my undivided attention on the content of the meeting. Thing is, you don’t need Scrum to benefit from having a plan. You can create your own templates or adopt existing ones from systems like Holacracy.
3. Record your decisions
Effective meetings are effective because they achieve sought-after outcomes. And last week, I pointed out the obvious by saying that this necessitates that we have an outcome in mind before the meeting begins. But that’s not all. We must also record our decisions during the meeting so that it’s abundantly clear what is being decided. Are we creating a new task? Or is it a new project (i.e., a sequence of tasks)? Or maybe we’re defining a new policy? Make it clear. And whatever you do, don’t forget to make someone accountable.
Our current focus on online meetings tends to center on audio and video technology. And for good reason — bad audio and video will derail your meeting however well-prepared and well-structured it might be. But let’s be clear: great video does not an effective meeting make. It’s a necessity, yes. But it’s our actions before, during, and after the meeting that determines whether any and all outcomes will be achieved.
That’s all for this week.
Until next time: Make it matter.