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Why your meetings sucks and how to fix them – Part I

The most unproductive habit of companies is having tons of meetings.

Traditional meetings consist of kidnapping an entire team sitting on a room (or chat) while two of them just throws new unprepared ideas to the group and the rest try to stay awake, traditional meetings are not productive at all, however why does everyone keep doing them?

No one taught us a better way to solve complex issues that involve several departments at a once, plus things are getting worse with “agile” and their recurring meetings. Nothing is less agile than mandatory-fixed-recurring meetings. Really.

Let’s look at some simple actions that you can implement to improve your organization’s information sharing habits, because that’s the real issue we’re trying to solve in the first place.

How to know if your meetings are doing bad?

  • They took more than 20 minutes.
  • Usually, you need more than one session.
  • Too often people ask for information you shared in previous meetings.
  • Work is wasted because changes weren’t shared efficiently.
  • You need to invite the whole team, you can’t narrow it to main actors.
  • New ideas emerge during meetings. (For me, this is the biggest red flag)
  • You need to put people in context before you can make decisions.
  • No action taken after the meeting.
  • You have recurring meetings such as dailies or weeklies.
  • You have no one controlling the flow.
  • No one criticizes other’s ideas.
  • Only one is sharing.
  • You use meetings as a way of communicate general announcements.
  • People often ask when, who or why a decision was made.
  • Meetings-chain, have meeting after meeting.
  • You use tools to relieve recurring meetings overhead, like a bot to assist your daily.

If you meet some of the above points I have bad news for you. The worst part is that bad meeting are like a virus, they always keep expanding and growing until someone takes educated action.

After a while you bottom out. Someone organizes a meeting to find how to solve meetings.

Yaiks.

What meetings should look like?

Most people miss the whole point around meetings. Let me do a simple list of some of the possible solutions, we will discuss them in the upcoming parts of this article.

  • You can tell your meetings are a disaster when new ideas come up all the time, this is a clear sign that people needs to do work BEFORE the meeting. If this happens, you need pre-work requirements, with this action your meetings will be shorter and you will avoid unpremeditated ideas.

  • Pre-work. Lots of pre-work. Meetings exist to take action not to brainstorm ideas or explain issues, detail what is needed to be prepared before the meeting.

  • Each meeting has to have a summary of what you are going to discuss there, other option is to inform people one by one, this also helps to filter people that shouldn’t be part of it. If you need to explain the issue at the beginning you are already consuming everyone’s time, plus some people may not fully understand it. There is nothing worse than spending an hour in a meeting where you really don’t need to be. If someone didn’t read the summary he must leave, period.

  • Meetings should be recorded in some way, if this is not possible, one of the assistants should write down what was discussed and what the decisions were. These reports must be available for the team in a tidy way. Always appoint someone to be in charge of summarizing or recording the meeting.

  • A meeting has to have a simple and single goal, if you have more than one issue, just create another meeting. This also helps with the recording, if you discus to much stuff in a single meeting, the people listening to the report will be lost or not interested in that part.

  • Meetings need to be time boxed, never, NEVER exceed the scheduled time. If you can’t solve the problem in 15 minutes the team needs to do some hard preliminary work before wasting everyone else’s time.

  • Just invite main actors, others can read the reports later. Just invite passive people if they are being trained in some way, you need to say it out loud when a person comes just for learning.

Remember, most one-to-one conversations are not meetings, the key to improve here is to swap from long meetings to quality conversation. We will talk more about possible solutions in part 3.

If you’re curious, here is my meeting schedule when I was part of a SCRUM team at some point in my career. You can access it by sharing this content using the button below, this means a lot since it helps us to continue creating content like this. Thank you!

In part 2 we will talk about chat formats, their good and bad parts.

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