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Meeting Madness: From too many meetings to truly effective meetings.

3 min

re.set - Training

You arrive at the office for a meeting early in the morning and from that moment on you’re going from meeting to meeting until they’ve occupied 80% of your day. Does this scenario ring a bell? If so, you’re in the midst of “meeting madness”.

 Many people are overwhelmed by the number of meetings they have per day, which leads them to catch up with their work after hours and always have the feeling of leaving tasks pending. What's more: meetings are often poorly scheduled, poorly organized, or both.

 In an Agile organization, time well spent is essential to achieving the established objectives. Here are some tips to both minimize the number of meetings and make the most of them.

Meetings in Agile Methodology: the Ceremonies that Facilitate Process Control.

For those who roll their eyes at the different conventions that take place around Agile Methodology, we must point out that they’re necessary, as long as they have a clear objective, a pre-established duration and conclusions; this is precisely what Agile meetings aim for.

 We must also point out that if a series of tips are not taken into account, in the end one ends up returning to the habit of meeting to "be together" and talk about any other matter that was not planned, losing the purpose and meaning of the meeting.

 For real improvement and to achieve efficient meetings, a deep systemic change is needed, because meetings are not the illness, but rather the symptom; they’re a perfect example of how people can collaborate and get their work done.

 Many organizations adopt the type of meetings suggested by Agile Methodology, such as the Daily Meeting or Sprint Planning, but without real change in their work model, in the end it’s only a performance act. It isn’t by using some attractive Agile names that meetings automatically become Agile Meetings.

 There’s no doubt that meetings encourage the exchange of ideas and help to establish objectives as well as the ways to achieve them, but without a clear definition of the purpose of the meeting, the only thing that is achieved is to reduce the effective working time and saturate people. The unintended consequence is that in order to gain uninterrupted time to perform tasks that require concentration, employees end up arriving early, leaving after hours, or even catching up on weekends.

 In Agile Methodology, a series of practices is established with a certain duration, target and participants. With these encounters, the objectives to be achieved are set, their progress is measured, initiatives are proposed to meet them, and difficulties and errors are evaluated with the aim of correcting them.

These practices celebrate milestones and establish checkpoints, they are meetings that have a clear purpose and serve the organization to assess progress in achieving objectives.

Tips for Having Agile Meetings.

When we accompany an organization in its transformation process, a debate always comes to light: what number of meetings are really necessary. This doesn’t have a simple answer, but we do ask them to complete this exercise before creating a new meeting, beyond those that involve the Agile Methodology, answering these questions:

Does this meeting have a clear objective?

Is it necessary for me to attend or can I delegate someone?

Can it be solved by digitizing the work with shared documents?

Can all those summoned contribute something and should they be there?

If it is to be held, then let us keep these points in mind:

• Time Box: Meetings start and end on time. If someone doesn’t arrive on time, it should be their responsibility to seek the corresponding information.

• Reason for the meeting: A meeting cannot be the excuse for some to have "their moment in the spotlight" and for others to advance in their work hiding behind their computer screens. The objectives of a meeting must be: decision-making or the generation of ideas. To report on any topic or collaborate on a project, digital tools can be used that don’t require the presence of all stakeholders in a specific place and time.

• Advance Information: Whenever possible, all necessary information for a meeting should be sent in advance, to ensure that all participants have the same starting information and have read it. If this is not possible, there should at least be a description of the meeting in the announcement.

• Objectives of the Meeting: They must be made clear by the organizer in the first 5 minutes of the meeting.

• Participation: Everyone who is in the meeting should share their opinion and participate. There can be no “spectators” or “absolute protagonists”.

• Next Steps: The last 5 minutes of the meeting are used to present next steps and make sure that all the participants have understood their “homework”.

And one last piece of advice: let's start the meetings at a reasonable time. No meetings in the middle or end of the afternoon or calls on the fly, unless it’s a truly urgent matter. It is these "in a bind” meetings that are so far from Agile Methodology.

The Thieves of Group Time.

Often the problem lies not so much in the number of meetings but in the fact that none of them are effective. They end up being meetings where topics already discussed are reviewed and the next steps are not clear, so another meeting is necessary to fix them. It ends in an absurd "infinite loop" where, as if it were a Monty Python sketch, meetings are established to set yet another meeting.

 All this is resolved with a transformation towards Agile Methodologies, where meetings are part of a flow that values day-to-day work, measuring the results of all of the actions and initiatives.

 Shall we have a meeting and we’ll tell you more?

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