So how do you make a cup of tea?

woman drinking tea
Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

Understanding the problem is part about knowing what the problem is, but often much more about understanding how the problem arose, the context, and the background.

There’s no such thing as an easy fix. Things which can be fixed easily aren’t generally seen as problems that need fixing, they are seen as tasks that need completing.

I will try and illustrate that with the simple problem of having a cup of tea.

I want a cup of tea, but there’s no water in the kettle. A simple problem resolved by filling the kettle with water and putting it onto boil, making the tea, and there you go.

This was an easy fix. 

Now imagine you want a cup of tea, but there isn’t any clean water supply. First you need to provide fresh water. Without a water supply you could install a supply, but a temporary solution might be to go out and buy some bottled water. Cheaper in the short run, it will be more expensive in the longer term. 

Then there is the challenge of boiling the water for the tea. What do you do if there is no kettle. Go and buy a kettle. 

An electric kettle is great if there is an electricity supply, but what kettle do you get if the fuel source you have is gas or an open fire. 

Finally you need to choose a cup. You would not be surprised how often this takes time as some people have a favourite cup others take their time to choose a cup. Reality is that this is probably the least important part of the process. 

If you have a water supply, electricity, a kettle, and a supply of cups; it can be frustrating to see and difficult to understand why others can’t easily make a cup of tea. 

You could argue that there is an easier fix of going somewhere and buying me a cup of tea. That is a quick fix, but is it sustainable in the long run?

This analogy shows the importance of dependencies and the context when you try and solve a problem. You also need to understand the skills and knowledge of those facing the problem.

Those with the foundations, the resources, the skills and capabilities, will be easily able to deliver a solution to what they see as a simple problem. However they may have not realised their journey in getting to that point when they are able to easily make tea. Just telling people to make tea, or showing them how to make tea, often isn’t sufficient, if they lack the foundations and infrastructure to actually make a cup of tea.

Now let’s not even mention coffee…

Places in London to work

Saw this Twitter thread. Really useful list of locations in London for working and reading, where you don’t need to buy endless cups of coffee.

But I like coffee…

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Well not continuously…

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, whereas I eat croissant

Forget about strategy and culture, what about my breakfast!

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. 

It can be thought that his view was that strategy was unimportant. To clarify this, what he was saying in this quote is that strategy alone is not enough, a powerful and empowering culture was essential in delivering on a strategy. Without that underpinning strong culture, you will never realise your strategic aspirations. When creating a strategy, you may want to think strategically what else needs to be in place to underpin the process.

Reflecting on this quote though, I did start to think about breakfast, and wondered if I could use breakfast as an analogy for effective strategy implementation. As well as strategic objectives, what else do people need to know in order to deliver those objectives successfully.

I do find talking with people about strategy that they often struggle with implementation, the operationalisation of that strategy and the planning required to deliver the objectives of that strategy.

Across different organisations I have often seen the following process used when it comes to strategic implementation.

Write a strategy.

This is usually done at a senior or board level, usually involving some consultants. The end result is a glossy brochure that talks about a vision, values and a series of objectives.

What happens next depends on your organisation, but I often see the following.

Separate departments, sections or directorates, sometimes even teams will create an operational plan. They then map that plan to the strategic objectives, as that will then “deliver” on the strategic objectives for the organisation.

So, what does this have to do with breakfast Well, imagine that your strategic objective is this:

We are committed to offering all of our customers a world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience embedded in a vibrant welcoming environment.

Well’s that’s an easy enough objective to deliver on, isn’t it?


Imagine there are various teams across the business who will support the delivery of this objective.

One team creates an operational plan to deliver on eggs for breakfast. They create a plan for cooking eggs different ways to meet customer needs. The plan is detailed and provides the process for cooking eggs different ways, they ways in which they should be presented, the different crockery required and how the eggs should be served to the customer. They use their own proprietary processes and planning tools, which are independent of and do not interact with other planning tools. However their plan implies that only eggs will be eaten for breakfast and no thought is given to the other breakfast components, as they are the responsibility of other teams.

One team creates a plan to deliver the bacon for the breakfast. In order to be efficient and cost-effective (as another strategic objective sets out that the organisation should be cost-effective and efficient), the team decides that they will use the cheapest bacon available, cook it in advance and then add to the breakfast when needed.

The toast team recognise that they need to deliver toast for the breakfast, but they will need time to workshop the kind of toast required, what bread will be needed, the kind of toaster that customers prefer, or whether they cook the toast to order. They anticipate that this planning and preparation will take at least six months and that it will be another six months before they can actually deliver toast to the customer.

One team makes the decision that they will do everything themselves and create their vision of the perfect breakfast, as they don’t trust other teams, or don’t like their work, they plan to procure, prepare and cook everything by themselves. 

Another team creates a plan to make mille feuille, or pastry cream slices on puff pastry. They recognise that not everyone wants a sweet pastry for breakfast, but they are very good at making mille feuille. At least one customer said they wanted mille feuille (though they didn’t clarify at the time if that was for afternoon tea or for breakfast).

One team decides that they don’t need a plan and will just get on with making the breakfast. They decide to focus on croissant. Before long they start looking at adding ham and cheese to the croissant. Realising after some failures, that croissant are too challenging to make, they go with making fruit scones instead.

No one is making coffee, as they all assumed that another team was making coffee, that was someone else’s responsibility.

The end result is that the breakfast that the customer receives is not quite what they expected. It is inconsistent, there are aspects missing, and no one appears to be taking responsibility for the end result, and are blaming other parts of the organisation for the failure to deliver.

So did the organisation deliver on offering all of their customers a world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience embedded in a vibrant welcoming environment.

Part of the problem is that there lacks a shared and agreed understanding of what a “world-leading, rigorous, delicious, inclusive breakfast experience” actually is.

For some people a delicious breakfast is the classic full English Breakfast, bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and toast. For others that breakfast needs to include black pudding, beans, hash browns as well as everything else. If you’re vegan though, that breakfast is exclusionary and not what you probably think is a delicious breakfast. If you live in Edinburgh, you might hesitate with a Full English and wonder where the Lorne sausage is.

When it comes to delivering on a strategic objective, it is important that all stakeholders are clear about what the objective means and what success looks like. If your team thinks avocado toast is success and another team is looking at success by delivering a full English breakfast, you are unlikely to deliver on that objective. Defining success and agreeing what that is, is critical to delivering on your vision.

Another issue is that teams are working independently on their plans and then mapping them to the strategy. There are two risks with that, first there could be gaps in the delivery. Secondly teams can create plans for doing stuff they want to do, which may not necessarily deliver on the strategic objective, but as it is in the plan, so it gets done. Teams can also change their plans without reflecting on the implications for the rest of the organisation and that overall breakfast experience.

Of course a single strategic objective is complex enough, adding in more objectives just adds to the complexity.

All teams need to know where the organisation is heading, and how their work (and the work of the individuals in those team) is contributing to the strategic objective. If there is no clarity in vision, no defined values, no sense of direction, then you will not be successful and you are potentially creating and nurturing an inadequate culture.

The key really is that teams need to be clear about what success looks like, their role in delivering that success. They can then plan their work accordingly to deliver on that success.

I can work anywhere

I can work anywhere, there we go, enough said, let’s move on.

Well, maybe the question, shouldn’t be can you work anywhere, but how can the environment improve and enhance your work. 

There is probably a deeper question about the nature of “work” in there, but I’ll leave that for the moment.

The pandemic has completely changed the concept of the workplace and patterns of working. There has been a lot of press and political rhetoric about people returning to work, though what they mean is much more about returning to the offices where people can work.

Back in September 2020 there was this article on the BBC News: Warnings of ‘ghost towns’ if staff do not return to the office.

Dame Carolyn said the UK’s offices were “vital drivers” of the economy, supporting thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars. “The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade.

This tweet echoed my thoughts on that article.

What would you rather have? A better work/life balance or the knowledge you’re keeping Pret open? Unbelievable.

The issue is that the genie is out of the bottle now, both staff and businesses are seeing the potential benefits (and the pitfalls) of working from home. This shift in working patterns will not go away, despite the feeling that the pandemic is “over”. This doesn’t mean that we’re all working from home permanently as we were under lockdown, but it does mean that we’re very likely not to go back to the way things were.


When I visited London in July 2021 and it felt deserted, almost apocalyptic. There was no one around as I went into our London office on that Monday in July. Coffee places were closed and the trains were deserted.

On more recent visits, London does feel quiet on a Monday and a Friday, though pre-pandemic, Fridays were often quieter anyhow. During the middle of the week, London feels very busy and crowded. There are queues for sandwiches and coffee. Having said that, looking into the office windows by our office and on the way into London, we can see many empty desks and meeting rooms.

However what does this all mean for the nature of work. I am reminded that work is something we do, not somewhere we go.

Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

I remember a Twitter discussion, where someone was asking why anyone would work from the office one day and then work from home another. Their thinking was that the nature of their work was similar day to day, so why would you keep changing your location for working? I think this is a fair point, and for some roles where the day to day routine is repetitive then working in the same location can make sense.

For many people, including myself, what we do changes over the day, during the week and over time. Sometimes my work is about reading and making notes, add in there writing. Other times I am facilitating workshops, attending meetings, running meetings, having conversations, and so on. Throw in their online versions of these as well to complicate the mix.

My working pattern vary week to week, so each week I could be doing something different, and sometimes in different parts of the UK.

The pandemic certainly has changed my working patterns and I have a lot more online meetings (and events) in my diary than I did pre-pandemic.

I do like to consider I can work anywhere. I don’t mind if I am at home, in our different offices, at Caffe Nero drinking coffee, on the train, even sitting outside in the sun!

Having said that, the environment in which I work can impact on my productivity and what I do or produce.

I don’t really find having an online meeting sitting at a desk in the office, effective. I much prefer to do those calls in a meeting room where I can shut the door and control the external noise (also means I don’t necessarily need to wear a headset either).

If I have a lot of online meetings, than most times I will work from home, no one to interrupt me, and coffee easily on hand. Of course this changes during the school holidays, when I will more likely commute into the office to avoid disturbing the rest of the household.

When it comes to (online) presentations, a lot depends on where I am. In one of our offices, you can’t turn off the air-conditioning in the meeting rooms and it can be quite noisy, so in those circumstances, I will probably present from home (luckily for me I have decent broadband now). In one of our other offices I can turn off the air-conditioning in the meeting rooms, so have used them for delivering online presentations.

When I need focus, I am much more flexible, I am quite happy to sit at a desk (home or office), though I will sometimes prefer an external location, a place where I can drink coffee.

For mundane administration or processing of e-mail,  location becomes even less important. This is the kind of thing I can do on the train, drinking coffee, or waiting for a meeting to start.

If I have a day of online calls and meetings, then I really don’t see the point of commuting to the office and sitting at a desk with a headset, or hiding away in a meeting room.

Though I have participated in many online workshops with tools such as a Miro board, I have to say I am not really a fan. If, given the choice, I would much prefer to meet in-person and run that kind of workshop.

Of course one aspect of “going into the office” which can be difficult to recreate online, is that ad hoc meeting or conversation, the happenstance of someone you need being in the office on the same day you are, chatting with other people, as you make coffee, and so on. I do use tools such as Twitter, Yammer and even Teams for this kind of thing, but it is not the same. For somethings the online is better (think about sharing news and links), for others in-person is better for me.

Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

Reflecting on the changing nature of work does mean that desks, offices and rooms which were ideal for the way we worked in 2019, are now not fit for purpose.

We might want to consider how and where people are working and then reflect on creating effective environments that enhance and enable productive working environments.

This might mean, more social spaces to encourage in-person interaction. Organisations which have a high level of online calls and meetings, might want to consider creating more acoustic spaces for people to do this. Where people do a lot of presentations, a TV studio type space might be the answer.

Of course the patterns of working with people potentially coming into the office for a day a week or a few days in the week, does mean that offices can be quite busy in the middle of the week and much quieter on Mondays and Fridays. 

Organisations may want to start thinking about how they will encourage people to come into the offices on those quiet days, what incentives could be in place, so that when people plan their weeks, occupancy of the office can be spread more evenly over the week. This could be travel passes (alas taxable), doughnuts, financial incentives. Or go the other way and use disincentives.

Within my own organisation, decisions are still being made about the future of the offices we have. However it is clear that we won’t be going back to what we had before. Even being a pretty much blended workplace anyhow, the covid-19 pandemic forced a non-office culture on everyone. Of course everyone won’t be able to work from home, and not everyone will want to work from home. Giving people a choice is important.

What I am hoping to see in the future is that office space encourages and enables different ways of working and that rows of desk working staff is not the norm for the future.

“Meetings are a waste of time”

Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

It was with some recognition and amusement that I read a recent article in the New Statesman on a study of meetings involving 76 companies and 25,000 employees.

It’s confirmed: meetings are a waste of time 

I had shared my own thoughts on meetings with colleagues a week ago, which I had written in January 2021. So it was nice to add to that discussion with this article.

There are some interesting lessons to learn from the study.

The most common meeting structure is one in which junior employees do the work of providing information to a manager, then wait and watch while others do the same. Mostly, it’s a performance – one that cements the social hierarchy of the company and the authority of its managers.

I have been in many of these kinds of meetings. However as a manager I did try and avoid these and have more structured reporting and meeting as a result.

I find that often meetings are held because people don’t prioritise reading reports and want to be told stuff. Highly inefficient and also pretty ineffective way of sharing updates and information, more so when it has to be cascaded down (and across) the organisation.

There are tools out there that can automate reporting (such as JIRA) and be used to create triggers that can then result in a meeting or conversation to solve the challenge or issue. Otherwise it can be slow waiting for that fortnightly meeting to share a challenge that you didn’t even know was a challenge until it got brought up in a meeting!

Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay

Meetings are also expensive.

…if a manager uses a two-hour meeting with 18 colleagues to make some decisions, they’re spending person-hours equivalent to one person doing an entire week’s work.

This kind of resourcing impact is often missed by those involved in organising and running meetings.

I am not sure even if meetings are the most effective way of making decisions.

The article says when one multinational was asked about trialling meeting-free days:

managers at one multinational did what managers do: they called a meeting. Then another. Then another, and another, and another, and… “They actually had 17 recorded meetings, at an average of two hours… 34 hours of their lives, they spent to decide whether they were to opt in!

At the end of those 17 meetings, they still hadn’t made a decision!

Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

So does reducing meetings increase e-mail, well the study found that:

…the reduction in meetings didn’t lead to an increase in the other great stressor of white-collar life: email. 

Add to that the quality of email communication and collaboration rose as well.

In fact, employees’ satisfaction with how they communicated rose. More hygienic meetings lead to more hygienic communication elsewhere.

As you might expect I also have some thoughts on managing e-mail.

It doesn’t mean we should never have meetings, the study was about reducing the number of meetings, raising the quality of meetings and improving communication overall. With the aim of improving performance and productivity.

I do think as well as reducing meetings you should also look at how you structure and run meetings as well. Thinking about the purpose of the meeting, the urgency, the importance and who needs to be there.

Blocking collaboration

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I don’t think anyone thinks they consciously and actively block collaboration, but we often hear cries for more collaboration, so much so that we wonder why we don’t collaborate more than we do. In this post I will explore the reasons for collaboration and some of the blockers that stifle collaboration.

So what do we mean by collaboration.

Collaboration is defined in the dictionary as: traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

That may not mean what we think when we say collaboration. Of course there is another definition which is: the action of working with someone to produce something.

The key part of that definition is to produce something.

So, meetings are not collaboration. They may be part of the process of working together to eventually produce something, but the meeting in itself is not collaboration. Collaboration happens when teams produce something.

Why should we collaborate?

One of the key reasons behind this is about having a wider set of skills and capabilities to drawn upon to produce that something.

Another reason is that it can avoid duplication of effort, collaborating avoids the need for teams to do everything to produce something, but also duplicating effort that may have already taken place, or is being undertaken simultaneously.

Finally with more resource devoted, stuff can be done at pace.

So what are the actual blockers to collaboration? Usually it isn’t one thing, it’s a combination of things.

The working environment can often hinder collaboration, if you are a geographically dispersed team you may not meet people on a regular informal basis. Unless you build in those informal connections, it can mean that the formality of meeting (online) can get in the way of collaboration. Teams that don’t know each other find collaboration challenging.

Another blocker can be a lack of trust, so failing to accept the work of others and duplicating their effort in your own way. Collaboration requires both trust and acceptance of the work of others. This is also about delivering what you promise.

When teams have different or competing objectives, then this can result in teams moving at different speeds or in different directions. When objectives come from strategic priorities then this is less likely to happen, where teams set their own objectives and align them to the strategy then you can have conflicting or clashing objectives.

Where goals and objectives are not clear, this can cause confusion, different rates of pace and failure to achieve. Collaboration requires clarity of goals and objectives across all teams. This is then echoed across the tasks and activities, who does what, what do they need to do, when they need to have it done by and how long will it take.

Even with clarity of goals and objectives, it is vital that there is a process that checks progress against the plan. You can use concepts such as agile for this, but whichever concept you utilise, the key is regular checks of where you are, what blockers are stopping progress and what are the next steps.

If the team doesn’t know what is happening, a lack of transparency, this can block collaboration. Using tools that allow everyone to see progress can result in better collaboration.

Without effective communication collaboration can slow and come to a halt. This comes back my earlier point about meetings. Meetings are not collaboration, but can be important in facilitating collaboration, only though if they are well organised and run effectively.

Collaboration does require teams to plan and think about their ways of working. Compromises have to be made to ensure effective collaboration. You have to trust, and trust is a two way street.

Exceptional excellence

Image by William Gallardo from Pixabay

You can have exceptional staff who are performing beyond expectations and still have an underperforming department or organisation.

Over the years I have worked for and worked with a range of oranisations looking at strategy

When you have a poor performing department, you can still have exceptional staff within that department. 

The problem with conflating this is that staff are then penalised for poor or ineffective management of the department.

This is explored in this blog post on misunderstanding excellence, which explores the concept that excellence of an organisation is not dependent on the excellence of its parts.

The excellence of an organisation is not dependent on the excellence of its parts.

Why does this happen?

Well part of the problem is that personal objectives are set independently and often not as part of a co-ordinated plan. As a result individual members of staff can achieve (and surpass) their objectives. However as they don’r relate or directly contribute to the objectives of the department, the department can fail to achieve its required objectives. So you have have outstanding staff and a poor performing department.

Similarly you can have a departmental strategy which is independent of the corporate strategy. So you can have successful departments, but not a successful organisation. Often you find that support or professional services are particulate good at setting departmental objectives that have no bearing on the strategic direction of the organisation.

So when it comes to working this out, who is responsible?

Well you could say the departmental lead, but I do think it is deeper than that, as you can also have excellent departments, but a poor performing organisation, for basically the same reasons as outlined for individuals. An added factor is often departments writing their operational plan and then mapping it it to strategic objectives. This is done so that departments can then say (and believe) they are contributing to the strategic objectives of the organisation. One of the results of this though can be be duplication (different parts of the organisation undertaking the same activities), it can also mean that certain aspects of the strategy are not done, or the underpinning requirements are missed, resulting in departments being doomed to fail, or at least underperform.

So what is the solution?

Just understanding the various relationships between personal, departmental and organisational objectives would help. Recognising the dependencies and underpinning objectives required to achieve objectives would also be helpful.

Finally do the organisational strategic objectives work for the organisation? Does the organisation know what is required to achieve them? That is something that can be missed or more often people assume that they know what is required and that what they assume is required is the same as everyone else. That assumption needs to be challenged.

It’s not just about the tech, we also need to think differently

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Over the last 18 months virtually all of my meetings have been on Teams or Zoom, or once on Google Meet. I can probably count the number of in-person meetings I have had on the fingers on one hand.

As with most people’s experiences, the experience hasn’t been excellent or even good, it’s either been okay or awful.

Over the next twelve months, I am still expecting that most of my meetings will still be on Teams or Zoom.

So how could we make things better?

The BBC published this article: Can better tech make video meetings less excruciating?

On most video conference calls, only one person gets to speak at a time. It’s a deliberate, designed feature of platforms such as Zoom. But as Susan D Blum’s linguistic anthropology class found out, it makes having a natural conversation practically impossible.

Though the technology can be a limiting factor with this, part of the problem is we are trying to replicate what we do in-person and do it online using a tool such as Zoom. The reality is that the nuances of what made the in-person experience so effective are lost when we translate to digital and we also don take advantage of the affordances that digital can bring.

So technological solutions are only part of the solution, the other key aspect is transformation.

There is some aspects of understanding why you need the meeting in the first place.

Image by Ronald Carreño 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.

The fact that many video meetings are excruciating or awful, maybe that before the in-person meetings were equally excruciating or awful, but we didn’t recognise this and the tech has exacerbated the problem.

So before looking for technological solutions to meetings, start reflecting on why you are having a meeting in the first place.

      • What are the objectives of having the meeting?
      • Do you actually need a live face to face online meeting?
      • Could you meet the objectives in a different way?

A simple example, you need to review some content or a document. You could do this in asynchronous live online meeting, but this isn’t always very efficient. Online can exacerbate those inefficiencies and make for a less useful and rewarding experience.

An alternative approach could be to undertake an asynchronous review of the meeting, using comments and collaboration on a shared document. It would take “longer” than a meeting, you might need a week or a few days, but people could choose as and when to engage with the process.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

One kind of meeting I attend a lot are catch-up meetings, where we go around the “room” and provide an update on what we are doing and is happening.

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

So post your updates on Teams, Yammer or the intranet.

One of the reasons why we don’t do that, is because people don’t read the stuff they are sent, don’t engage with collaborative processes, or ignore company intranets and tools such as Yammer. As a result we have meetings, which we know people will attend.

The perspective we can solve engagement issues by having meetings, and so we need to improve the online meetings, misses the key problem, which is the lack of engagement. This is a leadership and management challenge not just about improving online meetings.

People have a personal responsibility to engage with corporate communication, give them choice, make it easier, but to think you solve it by having a meeting, is a similar thinking that people read all their e-mail.

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

Managing your holiday e-mail

Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

I really like this presentation from Zak Mensah about how to deal with e-mail when going away.

Email is like the daily newspaper – every day past its print day its usefulness fades until two weeks later nobody cares.

I agree very much of what Zak says in his presentation. I certainly put in an informative out of the office and put all e-mail received whilst on holiday to a folder to be dealt with as and when.

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!