One of the things most hated by many professionals is meetings. Meetings with clients, managers, other colleagues, other project teams. When leaving a meeting, it’s quite likely to hear them say things like: “Ah, lets get back to work”. Or, when declining a meeting request: “No, I’ve work to do.” Why would professionals have such a disliking for meetings?
First of all, meetings are often political: It’s important just to be there, one never knows what might be decided and people have learned to make sure to be taken into the loop. Just to make sure that nothing skips their attention, and that nobody skips them.
Another reason why people don’t like meetings, is that their purpose is unclear –or at least the goal of some of the points being brought up-. Why are topics being discussed at all? What results are to be expected, for whom? Are you simply discussing things to share your ideas, or the state of a project? Do you seek input from your peers? When you’re looking for an opinion, would it have to be an opinion shared by all? Would someone’s advise be a binding advise, or just a suggestion? Or might the goal of the meeting be to choose a direction, to enter a certain path? Too often, topics are discussed without a clear result, leaving everyone only vaguely aware of what’s been decided.
Finally, the structure of meetings is not always clear. Who’s in charge of the meeting? Who’s the meetings main client? What’s the meetings’ goal? Who need to attend? For which items? How long do we take for every topic? Who can speak and on what?
No wonder people tend to grow a dislike for meetings.
Still, good meetings can help tremendously to gain efficiency and to reduce waste in an organization. Efficiency in the handling of information, and reduction of mutual waiting, chasing one another, getting things wrong and have to do them over again (rework)…
When done properly, meetings help to make work easier.
In Lean and Agile we basically have three kinds of meetings during project execution (not counting the meetings needed to launch the project):
- A two hour weekly Iteration Meeting – The purpose of this meeting is to monitor progress and to avoid unexpected workload and stress towards the release date. During the Iteration Meeting all team members deliver the work they’ve accomplished during the previous iteration. Having this topic scheduled on your Iteration Meeting, helps Team Members to focus on completion of User Stories too. A second topic of the Iteration Meeting is the work to be done during the next Iteration. This is where the client comes in. In Lean and Agile Project Management, we invite the Client during every Iteration Meeting to reaffirm current priorities, or to adjust them. The team needs to decide on which User Stories to pick up, and which to leave for late. Thus, the team leaves the meeting with a clear understanding which User Stories need to be done during the next Iteration. Finally, some problems from the previous iteration may be discussed, in order to avoid them to occur again.
- A ten minutes daily Standup Meeting (or Scrum) – This meeting is to funnel all mutual requests and to co-ordinate the work to be done on that day. If we spare our requests for one moment only, we don’t need to keep calling, skyping or jabbering one another. It helps tremendously to continue working on what needs to be done, during the day, instead of being taken out of the flow every minute. It’s important to stay away from content during the Daily Standup. The meeting is on the work to be done only. Therefor, it needs to be a brief meeting (Ten Minutes), on our feet: It’s about action. Preferably, this meeting is done in front of a physical planning board, on which Tasks are moved from the Backlog to the In Progress column. It’s also important to always start on time and not to wait for late colleagues. It’s a valuable meeting and when one misses it, one misses a chance to call for support from others.
- Content driven meetings – Most professionals like to discuss some details on the content they’re working on. This should be done off-line, with only the colleagues who are really needed for it, who benefit from the discussion and/ or can add to it. Not wasting other people’s time. These meetings should be scheduled daily during the Standup Meeting.
If the professional is lined up in one project at a time, this totals up to a fairly limited amount of communication time: A bit more than two hours per week, or 5% of your time, to always be in sync with what’s needed from you, and to line up your colleagues to support you in just the right way. Of course, to be successful, Team Members need to be clear about the purpose, results and structure of these meetings –and to respect this-.