Better meetings

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Even though all my meetings these days are online meetings I found this article by Atlassian on making meetings better, useful and interesting.

Running effective meetings isn’t simply a matter of doing the obvious things like sharing the agenda and starting on time. While those things are important, they’re just table stakes. The real key to running a great meeting is organizing and running them with a human touch – not like some corporate management automaton.

They have a useful flow chart as well.

When it comes to meetings the article also says

Meetings should never be held for the sole purpose of sharing information – that’s what email, chat, and company intranets are for.

I have been reflecting on meetings at my place of work and how they could be better.

We have meetings, however rather than focus just on making meetings more effective, it helps to understand the purpose and objective of what needs to be done, and then understand if a meeting is the best way to achieve this.

We clarify and agree the objectives of what we are trying to achieve and then identify the best practice to achieve these. We make better use of asynchronous tools for communication and collaboration and use live synchronous tools to achieve objectives which may require a meeting. We should not ignore the social aspect of people coming together and that may be an aim which can be satisfied by meeting (either on Teams or in-person).

We may want to abandon the concept of the regular meeting and only meet when there is a business need or problem that needs to be resolved.

We may want to take time to inform each other via other platforms and channels and each will need to take responsibility to access those platforms.

Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

If we are to have meetings then it is important to plan and prepare for that meeting. This isn’t just about having an agenda.

Any meeting should be planned to ensure that the following is in place:

  • Inform
  • What is being discussed
  • Why it is being discussed
  • What you hope to achieve
  • Anticipate information and people

What is the point of the meeting?

  • Do you need to have a meeting?
  • Keep the meetings on target
  • They are not about problem solving
  • Prepare ahead of time, not during the meeting
  • Meetings should be short
  • Don’t wait, if it says 9:30am, then start at 9:30am
  • Have rules about who speaks and when
  • Focus on the meeting, don’t do other stuff during the meeting

Catch-up meetings (stand up)

  • What did you do since the last meeting? 
    • Team members comment on whether or not their commitments from the previous meeting were met.
  • What will you do next? 
    • Team members explain what they’re working on today and will have done by the next meeting.
  • What issues do you have? 
    • Team members explain where they are running into trouble with certain aspects of the project, work, etc…

One important thing to note is that for the meetings to be effective, problems can’t be solved during the meetings. These issues may not affect the whole team. As a result, spending an excessive amount of time discussing these issues with everyone is not a productive use of team time. After the meeting, schedule a problem-solving session with the individuals who these effect. Such an approach will allow for targeted resolution.

Meetings should be followed up by some kind of list of actions with responsibilities and timeframes (SMART). There isn’t always a need for detailed minutes, but a clear list of actions should be shared and reviewed.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

I also liked this section from the Atlassian article on the differences between effective and efficient.

It’s important to distinguish between effective and efficient.

An efficient meeting starts promptly, stays on track due to good time management, includes as few people as possible, and achieves the stated objective. Job done, right? Wrong. Efficiency is a superficial quality. It says nothing about whether the right people were in the room for the right reasons, or whether the meeting generated any value for the business.

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead. Not only that, but the result is then shared with others whose work may be affected.

Though a lot of these principles apply to both online and in-person meetings, the current situation which means we have to always default to the online meeting, means even more importantly that we need to do better meetings.

Could write more, but I have to go to a meeting!

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