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Notes On Effective Meetings

This is guest post by Daniel Carral 

Goal

You’ve probably experienced unnecessary, boring or ineffective meetings. Me too. We don’t want, not anymore. Therefore, why don’t we gather some thoughts which might help increasing the effectiveness of our meetings?

Set the Frame

Description of the event in Google Calendar is important. We might wanna include there:

  • Goal: What we are here for (e.g. decide which CMS to use)
  • Location: Be specific (e.g. URL, Tool, Bibliothek, Restaurant, Park…)
  • Motivation / context: Why are we doing this meeting? Background info.
  • Agenda: Structure to be followed during the meeting (e.g. intro, discussion, voting)
  • Previous preparation: Does something needs to be done before attending? (e.g. reading a document)

Remember

We want our meetings to be:

Necessary

Meetings cost money, a lot. Let’s use them wisely.

Small

Do we need to mention the 2 pizza rule, again? :)

Punctual

  • Respect to everyone and their plannings for the day.
  • Examples: set alarms @ Google Calendar, plan your day before starting the work.

Moderated / facilitated

  • Psychologically safe spaces (not afraid to ask or to say what you want to).
  • Ideally with a time-keeper and/or minute-keeper (could be a rotating role, enabling “train the trainers” sessions).
  • Examples: Scrum ceremonies (Scrum Masters), coding dojos / coderetreats (facilitators).

Documented

  • No everyone needs to attend to know what went on / what has been decided.
  • Excellent mechanism / opportunity to keep track of agreed action items.
  • Examples: “Meeting Minutes” space @ Nuclino.

Scheduled in advance

As mentioned in “punctual”, planning days / weeks takes a lot of effort. Why not being respectful with the time of our colleagues and don’t call for “spontaneous” meetings (same / next day), unless necessary?

Challenged

Gathering feedback (ideas/comments/suggestions) from participants, so we can keep improving.

Examples:

  • UX Chances #1 @ Google Docs (Forms)
  • 1:1s Continuous learning @ trendig

Note: Activity Feedback Template (easy to create with Google Forms, as an example), help you to evaluate the quality of your meetings. Additionally, they are easily reusable by duplicating it for whatever meeting you organise.

Tips & tricks

  • Schedule buffer time (at least 5/10 minutes) between meetings or workshops.
  • Schedule enough pauses/breaks during longer meetings or workshops.
  • Use a template when filling descriptions @ Google Calendar (or whatever you use) or adapt previous descriptions for new events.

Summary

80% of the meetings could (and probably should) be framed as workshops instead, Liberating Structures are extremely powerful, everyone hates meetings so much that they are willing to give a try to whatever could make them better, Notion is better knowledge base than Nuclino, and last but not least: Mondays suck; try not to schedule meetings on Mondays :)

 

Afterword by Kris

I used to work for a company where people liked to measure their productivity by the number of meetings they participated. So there was a meeting for everything… We had many useless meetings, many lost hours of life. Then I worked for a company where people treated meetings like a status symbol. Important people went to the meetings and never shared what was discussed there. If you asked them about meeting results, the answer was, that you are not allowed to know. Based on how company evolved over the years, I guess there was no outcome nor results of those meetings. Then I worked for company who never have meetings. At first I was so happy, but later I realised that something was terribly missing. Over the years I also participated meetings which where started by moderators question: “so why we are here?” or “what do we need to discuss today?” Those I hate the most. You know that no one is prepared and you know that everyone will start to improvise and it will take hours…

I used to initiate weekly meetings, to block the time to talk about important topics. Now I don’t do that anymore, because the reality showed that those meetings fail on all main topics of a meeting: goal, motivation and agenda.

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