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Today, let’s talk about meetings!
Hold on, don’t run away… at least not yet 

  • Do you feel you have too many meetings a day?
  • Do you regularly say to yourself “this meeting could have been an email”?
  • Do you find yourself in meetings where you don’t know what to do to make it worth the time?

If you replied to any of these questions by the affirmative then let me tell you that it does not have to be this way!

Why do I even want to talk about meetings?

Since the pandemy started, most of us in the tech industry, work now remotely.
Although I am delighted by the shift of mindset toward remote working, especially in the Agile community, I cannot stop seeing however that we imported directly the collocated default behavior to remote working without thinking about what remote work truly means.

Is Your Calendar Flooded with Meetings?

I cannot count the number of times I heard this year: “now, my calendar is exploding” or “I was complaining I had too many meetings, well now it is even worse”.
Way before the pandemy, when I was still working in a collocated environment and I needed something, I just had to look around and check if my colleagues were available. Then, I would stand up from my chair and just walk a few meters.
I would also benefit from osmosis communication.

But in the remote, I don’t see my colleagues.

  • What should I do when I need information?
  • Isn’t face to face the best way to communicate as says the agile manifesto?
  • Shall I just then launch a Zoom meeting?

After all, it is just a few minutes…
When I am in a Zoom meeting and I have my camera on and my colleagues too, we are in the same “room”, we chat, we socialise, we exchange the information I needed and we are good to go, so no problem.
Right?

Question your default behaviour

Except when I asked my colleagues about how they felt when hearing the word “meeting”.

  • “Makes me tired, exhausted, anxious, missing the objective, worn out, wondering whether it should happen”

Did you know that it takes 23 minutes to entirely focus on a task?

Think about all the interruptions you had at the office before… Now, the interruptions are different but not less. A couple of slack messages here, just 5 Zoom meetings of 30 minutes each.

And the day is gone!

What did I achieve today?
Why am I feeling so tired?

I started working in remote few months before it was mandatory and we are still battling with meetings, trying to find a balance between effective meetings, and time to focus on our own individual necessary work.

The bad news? It is a long battle
The good news? All is required is for us to think…. a bit more

  • What consequences could trigger my action?
    • Am I 100% blocked if I don’t have the information?
    • Can I wait for an asynchronous answer?
    • Do I want to share information?
    • Do I want to build relationship?
    • Do I need a decision making?
    • What are the alternatives?

I want to share information, should I hold a meeting?

Instinctively, when we want to share information, we might just set up a meeting for the sole sake to share information. 

But before sharing information I try to always ask myself:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting? 
  • Do I want to purely share the information?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How big is the audience?
  • Can the audience give inputs or challenge some of the information?
  • Do I need to set up this meeting knowing it will take 23 min afterward for the attendees to focus back on their work? 

If I want to only share information, then holding a meeting is not a good idea.

I should share the information by an asynchronous and written way.

The only notable exception will be the All Hands of a company. During All Hands a lot of information is shared but let’s not get fooled. The real purpose of a All Hands is to gather everyone, to make us feel belonging to something bigger and driving our engagement.

I need a decision, should I hold a meeting?

Meetings gave us great opportunities for collecting ideas and make progress towards an upcoming goal. Frequently this involves decision making.

Knowing what type of decisions needs to be made helps us to plan a meeting best.

  • Strategy Decisions
  • Problem Solving Decisions
  • Operational Decisions
  • Evaluation Decisions

So I can just set up a meeting?
Hold on your horses! Before engaging in the meeting and sending the invite, let’s think again about the decision I need.

  • Who will take the decision? One person? The entire group?
  • Will we need brainstorming on a new idea or information, or drafting altogether?
  • What would be the way to get inputs in an asynchronous way?
  • What is the desired outcome I want from this meeting?

In short, it depends.

If the decision is not taken by the whole group then I should not hold a meeting.
If the decision needs a consensus decision then I should hold a meeting and make sure everyone has been heard.

Tools you can use

Thank to technology there is no reason to gather everyone in the same place at the same time to conduct a meeting unless it really requires face to face conversation.

For sharing information I can use:

  • Email
  • Team channels
  • Company channels
  • Google drive documents
  • Documents in Dropbox
  • Jira or any board your team uses
  • etc

For gathering inputs or making decision I can use:

  • Google Survey
  • Miro or Mural boards
  • Jira or any board your team uses
  • Polly survey in Slack
  • etc

But when, I still need a meeting

If after all of this thinking I still need a meeting then it is what it is.
I will just need to check a couple of things first.

Use the POWER exercise from Molood Ceccarelli 

  • P – What is the Purpose of the meeting?
  • O – What is the Outcome of the meeting?
  • W – What’s in it for them and for me?
  • E – How will I engage the attendees?
  • R – What would be the people’s Roles in the meeting?

Use this quick checklist before sending the invite:

  1. Did I write the purpose of the meeting?
  2. Did I write the outcome or desired outcome?
  3. Am I sending enough information for the attendees to be up to date?
  4. Is the attendees nimble enough to be able to take efficient decision? I can use the pizza rule
  5. Are all the attendees free? Careful to double booking disease and the outside of working hours

Meetings should not make us feel bad or down

Meetings should be a way where we sync efficiently and in a fun engaging way with our colleagues, where actions are decided and where we feel energized afterward.

Meetings are conducted for: 

  • Innovation
  • Decisions Making
  • Team Building
  • Communications
  • Group Dynamics

In  a remote environment, we have a lot of tools that we can use to avoid setting up meetings for the sake of meetings and only get meetings that deliver value to us.

Fruitless meetings can be a waste of time and a huge factor of demotivation, fatigue and desengagement.
Let’s rethink our default approach to meetings in the new normal.

Keep the essentials, the creatives ones, the ones that make our businesses run on new ideas.

What is your approach to meetings nowadays?

What tools do you use for sharing information, gathering inputs and decision making?