Meetings constitute a very effective way for a team to discuss problems and take decisions.
Unfortunately, many teams, including mine, abuse the ability to organize meetings and end up failing the primary goal of such a ceremony which is taking a decision.
I was really curious about whether there are other teams out there having similar productivity issues. I kicked off an extensive reasearch (I was actually eating popcorns and reading several posts on Reddit) and tried to extract some intel that would later help my team become more effective when conducting meetings.
The lifetime of a meeting consists of three different periods. Below, I describe the problems we have identified per phase:
- Meeting is not required.
- Attendees are not prepared enough.
- Discussion plan is absent.
- Meeting is over-crowded and there is no time for wide participation.
- Too many diversions from the main discussion point. Meeting becomes irrelevant.
- No transcripts taken so important opinions get lost.
After the meeting
- No actions taken
- If actions were taken, no follow-up meetings have been scheduled to make sure that someone has acted on them.
- No meeting summary published in written form or video recordings
- Outcome of the meeting is not documented.
My team tested the following framework aiming to tackle the problems presented in the previous section. Truth to be told, not everything was sunshine and rainbows as it required some admin effort from our side but we noticed improvements in our decision making progress without wasting a lot of time in follow-up “business gatherings”:
Meetings should not be booked unless there is a problem that aims instant reaction.
Meetings are the most expensive way of taking a decision and they must be the last resort. Many people, myself included, have taken the liberty to book a meeting for non-important reasons. Small daily desicions can be taken on Slack or other communication channels without spending the time of multiple people. By doing so you make sure that you don’t waste the most expensive resource of a company, its workforce. Having said that, a meeting is still the best approach for taking important decisions super fast when required and it is worth the investment.
Follow the single responsibility principle.
Trying to squeeze multiple discussions within a single meeting requires super powers and most people don’t have them.
Feedback is better gathered through a wiki page rather than a meeting.
If feedback is sought then consider documenting your thoughts on a wiki page before scheduling a meeting. Invite all parties to add comments to your document and once you have a good overview about what needs to be achieved and what each stakeholder believes, book a meeting with the key people representing all the different ideas. This will reduce the amount of meetings required and it will facilitate the decision making process.
The scope of a meeting needs to be clear for all participants, in advance. Documentation is the key here.
An agenda needs to be put together before a meeting in a public wiki page (if possible). Any useful resources that will bring attendees up to speed with the key points of a discussion should be documented in the wiki page as well. A section where future actions will be captured should be created as well. This section will be used at the end or during the meeting, to capture any actions. This process will ensure that nothing will be forgotten after the meeting.