More productive meetings

#47, Apr 26, 2024

Vasi is here. Drinking-the-third-coffee-of-the-day Vasi.

Song of the dose

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 6 seconds.

What drains your energy and time the most?

Team meetings that are long, boring and monotonous. And on top of everything – they generate zero result.

What’s the issue about?

This dose is about what to implement to make your meetings shorter, fewer and more productive.

Tech people who we meet very often complain of things like:

“our meetings are protracted and boring”

“the same people always speak during meetings, the same people are always silent”

“we constantly have to reschedule meetings because a lot of them go beyond the planned time”

“we fail to come out of meetings with a decision”

“no one knows what to do after meetings”

“too many meetings for the same thing”

“people don’t talk in front of the team during meetings, but then talk openly in smaller groups”

“decisions from meetings are accepted only by part of the team, others are not committed”

Let me tell you about a case with a dev team we coached:

Their meetings often spilled over 3 hours. After the 3rd hour, they usually moved the discussion for another day.

For several months, one question kept being discussed but remained unresolved by the team.

The team leader reached out to us for help. We decided to do ‘Effective Meeting’ training with the team.

The goal was to reduce these several 3-hour meetings to a total of 2 hours.

————

1 month after the training, the manager told us with excitement:

– “Guys, do you know how long it takes us to discuss a question now?”

“Do you manage to make a decision within 2 hours?”

“Hell yeah! We make it in 1 hour!”

Our gang’s solution – for a team meeting to be effective, it must have:

1. A structure

2. Two special roles

In this dose I’ll focus on 1. A structure of the meeting.

 

Two tips for a great structure

1. Choose the TOPIC and the GOAL of the meeting

The topic of a meeting is what you’re going to discuss.

The goal of a meeting is what you expect to reach as a result.
(the outcome you want to have at the end of the meeting)

Most team meetings have a topic in their agenda, but don’t have a clearly defined goal.

Topic and Goal for a meeting

‼️ Note: if the goal of the meeting is to make a decision, then it’s critical to divide the meeting into 2 parts: discussion & decision-making.

2. Divide the meeting into 2 parts – discussion and decision-making.

In the first part of the meeting everyone discusses. The idea is everything to be clear to everyone and opinions to be visualized.

In the second part of the meeting the team makes a decision using their decision-making process.

—> The ingredients for a successful decision-making.

Two parts for a meeting

‼️ Note: for the second part, you should already have different opinions (conflict points of the problem) to choose between. Only ambiguities and contradictions are discussed. Finally, the decision is written on the board, along with action items and responsible people.

Keep in mind that not every meeting has a decision-making part.

If the goal of the meeting is: “Let’s see what each of the team thinks about the integration of new team members” – then the meeting can have only one part.

Meetings’ bug #1

Tech teams often mix and intertwine part 1 and part 2 of the meeting.

Let me walk you through another real case from our team coaching session:

In a deep dive discussion with one dev team, some people on the team spoke up and shared a problem.

The reaction of the rest of the team was:

– “Guys, we don’t have that problem anymore. Didn’t we decide that at the meeting last week?”

“Decided?! We only discussed it as one possible option. We didn’t make a decision.”

A meeting is ineffective if one part of the team thinks you have made a decision but the rest thinks you have only done a discussion.

After a meeting, everyone on the team should be on the same page. People should have a shared understanding. And to know exactly what follows from here on.

A few more good practices for structuring the meeting

– Agenda: thanks to the agenda of the meeting, each participant can prepare in advance for the meeting, not just rely on their gut feeling when discussing.

– Emotional Check-in: at the start of the meeting, participants become more aware of their current emotional state and the state of others. They tend to be more focused and engaged during the discussion.

—> Emotional Check-in

– Check-out: at the end of the meeting, participants do a mini retro of the meeting. It helps them realize what they have done, what they have not done, what lies ahead after the meeting.

Let’s Wrap Up

Having a structure will make your meetings more effective because:

– The outcome will be clear to everyone.

– You will be more aligned.

– You will end with a decision (when it’s needed).

– You will be able to seek accountability for unfinished work, because you will have clarity.

If you want to explore more on the subject

Liberating Structures – a website full of resources about easy-to-learn microstructures that foster lively participation in groups of any size.

Stay Healthy, my dear Pill-er!
– Vasi

Get
a dose of soft skills directly in your inbox!

Learn more...