Meaningful Meetings

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Last updated 17 Sep 11:05

TL;DR

Meaningful Meetings are controlled and designed meetings with a set of practices. These practices aim to minimise time spent on the meeting while maximising its outcome.

What Are Meaningful Meetings?

Meaningful Meetings are spin-off on the classical, endless, and pointless meetings all people know and dislike.

There are multiple ways to make your meetings meaningful. However, the core is the same: on-point meetings where all relevant voices have a say.

The main practice is a shift in thinking to see meetings as dead time. That means there must be a solid reason for the meeting. Seeing meeting as the waste of everyone’s time pressures you to make them as efficient as you can. That includes creating (and following) meeting agendas, sharing relevant information beforehand, and setting roles. To understand how productive your meetings are, you want to track them.

Why You Might Want Meaningful Meetings?

A minute in the meeting is a minute person doesn’t directly work. It is a minute of lost work time. Team members, who must sit in poorly organised meetings keep thinking about what is this meeting about? Why Am I here? Why are we wasting our time on this? In fact, study from Salary.com reported that" Meetings topped the list with 19% of total respondents picking it as the biggest problem”. It was never a better time to think about your meeting practices.

Meaningful Meetings change the concept of meetings. Through committing to the following practices you give a relevant voice to your team, make meetings trackable, and increase the team’s efficiency.

Meaningful meetings example
Source: Meaningful meetings example

Problems Meaningful Meetings Helps to Solve

How to Implement Meaningful Meetings?

Committing to making meetings meaningful is a long run but even small practices can make the situation better. These practices can even improve your Agile Events. Agile Events are in their design meaningful.

Start With Reasons for Your Meeting

An important practice of Meaningful Meetings is to always have a good reason for meetings. If you are unsure why you should have a meeting, dismiss it.

Common Bad Reasons for meetings are:

  • To update on information
  • Because we scheduled one and we always do it on Monday
  • For team leader to monitor the process

All these bad reasons are solvable using Agile Events and product management tools. They don’t need any meetings at all.

Before you schedule a meeting, have a clear goal. Know precisely why you and other people should waste their work time on the meeting.

Create Meeting Agenda

Meeting Agenda is a powerful and overlooked tool that rapidly improves meetings. The common way of creating a Meeting Agenda is to write your Reasons for meeting as a TODO list. We are doing this meeting to do X, Y, and Z. Be SMART with your Agenda.

Add Relevant Information to Your Agenda

Your Agenda should contain all information that is necessary for the meeting. Add documents, code, image, or other important information. Each piece of relevant information shortens the Meeting and contributes to good developer experience.

Share them before the meeting. Invite others to collaborate in the information flow.

Add Outcomes to Your Agenda

A meaningful meeting has trackable outcomes. Add the expected outcomes to your Agenda to track how efficient the meeting was. Expected outcomes answer your Meeting Reasons. Otherwise, your meeting is set up poorly.

Invite Relevant People

With thinking that a meeting minute is a wasted minute, you start looking at people present on meetings differently. They can be doing different things right now, that directly translate to team success.

An interesting Framework to know who should be present is the RAP(I)D Framework. The I person is optional.

  • The person who Recommends a decision or action
  • The person who Agrees formally
  • The person who Performs and has accountability for the work
  • The person who Inputs extra details or points of view that may or may not align
  • The person who Decides on the action and commits the organization to action.

You can use Team Roles to select who needs an invitation.

Design Your Meetings for Your Team

Designing your meetings means creating a structure of meetings that works best for your team. Consider adjusting the:

  • Length of meetings
  • Location of meetings
  • Policies of meetings
  • Roles present on meetings

Interesting Meeting Policies to Consider:

No Phones on Meetings

The idea of no phones present on meetings as policy is to minimise distractions. Without distractions, you can finish your meeting agenda quicker.

6-page Narratives

The 6-page narrative is a rule of the famous Jeff Bezos and his meeting policy. In its simplest way, each Amazon meeting starts with reading 6-page full sentences memo and they absorb the information before talking. The memos are like dissertation work, structured about questions (reasons for the meeting), and all possible information around them. Writing in full sentences forces meeting members to debate with themselves. Asking for sources (data) makes your arguments stronger.

If you want to try the 6-page narrative (or 2-page, or X-page) for yourself, you can start with this template:

  1. The issue or the question
  2. The context of the issue (or the question)
  3. Usual approaches to answering it
  4. How does our approach differ?
  5. What are the next steps? How do we start our approach? What is in for our customers?
  6. Appendix (summary, main points, data, and sources)
Taking a Break After X Minutes

Since Meaningful meetings are places of sharp focus and pin-point attention, you could consider taking small breaks between each agenda section. Good Public speakers know that forcing attention over 20 minutes bad for keeping people engaged. Don’t burn teams energy over the meeting, take a break instead.

No Powerpoint or Another Presentation Software On Meeting

The presentation software is a risky slope. It is simple to overwhelm listeners with your slides or to make the presentation software your presentation. The purpose of Powerpoint and its alternatives is to aid the meeting, not to be the sole point of the meeting. It is better to have no visual aid than a bad one.

Alternatively, set a policy to use it only as the visual aid. Be strict about how to use your PowerPoints. For more on this topic, read the paper from the Mandel communication on how to use PowerPoint to its uttermost potential.

Maintain Control Over the Meeting

Even the best agenda or the best design can go sour if there is no control over the meeting. Losing the focus, talking about different tasks, not being present, all these are faults of bad meeting control.

The simplest way to maintain control over your meeting is to stick to your agenda and policies. You should consider having a moderator role in meetings. The moderator is responsible for going through the agenda and time management of the meeting. They should strive to make space for relevant voices.

If your meeting starts turning in a different direction, you can use the Enough, Lets Move On (ELMO) rule. One simple word that gets everyone back to the agenda. However, keep a note on where the discussion went. Many interesting ideas started as uncontrolled discussions.

Evaluate Your Meetings

Always evaluate how did your meeting go. Measure how much time you invested in the meeting. What could be better?

Adjust your policies, your meeting design, and your reasoning to fit your team. Then, commit to the changes and allow meaningful meetings to transform your work.

Common Pitfalls of Implementing Meaningful Meetings

  • The meeting is not designed for your team
  • Poorly set agenda for the meeting
  • Our meetings are perfect mindset
  • Not enough evaluations
  • The lack of control over meeting

Resources for Meaningful Meetings