Simple Rules to Ensure Your Meetings Matter
May 7, 2020
Why do so many meetings suck? Most people see meetings as an interruption from work, that they’re a waste of time. How many times have you heard in whispers “that meeting could have been an email” and agreed?
In the time of COVID-19 and Zoom, companies are leaning into more meetings than less in order to replicate the office environment, making it more frictionless than ever to invite someone to a meeting, whether or not it’s really necessary. This is often done without asking the all-important question: Why?
Without this question it’s impossible to look objectively at other questions, such as: Can I be more mindful of people’s time by sending an email, or a well-written slack message? Can I write a page on the internal resource library to have a longer-term impact? What is the value of this quick communication? Jumping to the conclusion of needing a meeting also fails to recognize that a meeting does not always extract value equally for every attendee. Some people can zone out, are less vocal due to introversion, or absorb information worse during a meeting. And when meetings simply exist to take up time, we lose out on time that could be spent making products better.
Basecamp states in their rule book that “chat dissolves, writing persists”. A meeting will be forgotten within the month, but if you write an email or memo you create a permanent resource that can be archived and re-read. Asynchronous communication can allow participants to be more mindful of what they say and how the audience interprets the content. This transition into more intentional and respectful communication can allow us to build more thoughtfully designed products.
On a recent project, I introduced a new set of API endpoints. I scheduled a meeting to walk through them with the team. Afterwards, I realized that I could have shared documentation instead, and asked for their feedback asynchronously. Then, if it was decided that a meeting was necessary, I could have scheduled as per the team’s needs. In this way, I would be able to use an asynchronous-first communication style that allows the team to give careful consideration and measured feedback in their own way, allowing them to do their best work and make the best products possible.
If a meeting has a clear reason for being scheduled and requires the direct participation of every participant, it can be an invaluable way to sort something out. However, when was the last time you came out of a meeting thinking “that was a perfect use of everyone’s time”?
We need to take extra care that meetings are valuable and worthwhile uses of everyone’s time. We need to appoint a facilitator to maximize the value of meetings.
A facilitator is responsible for achieving the meeting goal while maximizing the level of engagement of all attendees.
- A facilitator establishes the goal of the meeting. Examples:
- Communicate decisions made
- Gather information from others
- Create a plan
- Drill down to the actual goal. “You want to communicate a decision made. What is the end goal of knowledge being transferred? What action items do you wish the attendees fulfill?
- Clarify if more than one meeting is needed. The facilitator is responsible for scoping the meeting and it’s goal.
Facilitating meetings properly when they’re necessary and considering alternative, more long lasting methods of communication can allow us to build better products. We have more time to do them, our attention isn’t broken as easily, and we can consider our input better.
Over the past few weeks, as I’ve ended meetings only to look around and realize I’m still at home, I’ve had the time to truly see the value of good meetings and understand the frustrations of others when a meeting puts a dent in their productive time. At Connected, our job is always defined around one key job—building better products—and for me, only if a meeting helps to do that job, is it time well spent.
Fri Jun 2
Thoughtworker Spotlight: Priscila Araújo
Priscila Araújo has worn many hats across multiple countries, and we’re lucky to have her at Thoughtworks Canada. With over 10 years of experience from Brazil to Canada, she has engineering, delivery and product experience, just to name a few. Currently, as a Lead Product Manager, she works collaboratively with Thoughtworkers to build great software, driving impact by helping clients scale and grow. Priscila also shares her thought leadership by speaking at conferences and providing mentorship at Thoughtworks. As a strong believer in taking risks and trusting the process, find out in her Thoughtworker Spotlight how visiting Toronto on a scholarship and doing a Thoughtworks internship ten years ago influenced her trajectory from software engineering into the realm of product. When she’s not helping clients scale and grow or sharing tasty Brazilian treats with the office (the bolo de rolo she brought back from her recent Brazil trip was devoured in minutes), you can find her playing basketball, taking her dog out to play in the sun, biking by the lake and doing stand up paddleboarding in Toronto. If the weather calls for the indoors, she is a passionate plant parent and a coffee aficionado. With all of these interests, can you guess what her favourite product is? Hint: It definitely works as a great pair with any of these hobbies! Find out more in this week’s Thoughtworker Spotlight.
Fri May 26
Thoughtworker Spotlight: Jagbir Lehl Singh
Some may know him as Canada’s Head of Delivery, but Jagbir Lehl Singh is also a writer (check out some of his articles!), a foodie and a runner. His team would add aspiring rapper to the many hats he wears – you’ll have to join the team to see why! As a builder of high performance teams, he is laser-focused on driving his teams to deliver impact to clients by achieving their business goals. When it comes to scaling agility in organizations and creating structures where teams thrive, Jagbir uses his 18+ years of experience to support the growth of Thoughtworkers, developing them into leaders through his mentorship. If he’s not exploring Toronto’s latest gems for unique cuisine and beverages, you can find him outdoors, taking long weekend walks with his family. As a continuous learner who enjoys staying on his toes, can you guess what his favourite product is? Hint: It has been a constant companion of his for the last five years.