Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings
Why on earth do I need to spend so much of my time in a meeting? This is an absolutely sane question that most of the team members wind up asking at some point in time while I am coaching an organization towards more adaptive management techniques.
Regardless of the role, there are other things beyond meetings that we have traditionally declared to be a productive use of time. If you are a developer, then we declare productivity to be associated with time spent writing software. If you are a product manager, then we declare productivity to be associated with time spent defining the next version of a product or understanding the market’s demands. Whatever the role, it is rare for an organization or a profession to associate meeting time with high productivity.
From this perspective, it makes a ton of sense when people beg the question:
Why on earth do I need to spend so much of my time in a meeting?
Here’s my usual answer:
What defines a productive minute, is it one that is spent focusing on your craft or is it a minute that is spent delivering value to the organization as quickly as possible?
I tend to think that a productive minute is one that is spent delivering value to the organization as quickly as possible. So, while the time spent practicing a craft is absolutely a critical part of getting value to the organization it is a waste if the individual is not hyper focused on the actual needs of the organization. And this is where meetings come into the picture.
Effective meetings will have a specific theme and will enable a team to establish high clarity around the needs of the organization and teach accountability. For most of the teams that I coach this involves a few specific themes:
(1) Daily Standup – This is a quick touchpoint that is oriented around maintaining accountability within a team as each member takes a minute to update the other team members about the progress made over the past 24 hours, progress that they expect to make over the next 24 hours, and any issues or concerns that they need help addressing.
(2) Tactical Meeting – This is an hour or more and has a very specific purpose, dealing with short term tactics such as creating clarity around near term market needs or ensuring that the team is successful in meeting their commitments.
(3) Strategic Meeting – This is usually a half day or more and is focused on creating clarity about how to move the organization forward with a focus on the longer term vision and strategies.
What’s your take, are meetings useful in your organization? Do your meetings have specific themes or are they a mix-mash of agenda topics?
I agree and have run into the same question on every team I’ve helped transform to agile thinking. My response is similar. I make a clear distinction to the team or concerned party between a productive meeting and non-productive meeting. The former empowers the team to self-organize and direct, so they are critical members. Without it, they allow others to make decisions for them, which typically results in a lot of complaining about those decisions afterwards. A non-productive meeting is typically unfocused and unstructured, or something bureaucratic like a status meeting. Few of us like those. But some organizing with the members of the team is critical in meetings in order to move the ball efficiently and steer the evolution of the product and learning occurs.