Usually, you don’t need a meeting to make a decision. If you can do it with a quick discussion and a single follow-up email to confirm, do it.
- introduce team members to each other;
- plan work and review progress; and
- set tasks for improvement.
Avoid other meetings if you can, but a well planned meeting is preferable to a long, winding email trail.
Cut your meeting time by 90%
The Acid Test
- Pick a red marker and search your agenda for terms such as “discuss,” “update,” “review,” and other non-decisive verbs. Cross them out and see what is left.
- Then put any remaining item through the following three-question test:
- What will we do differently if we succeed in this meeting?
- Why do we need to meet to accomplish this?
- How will this help us further the goal of the team?
I bet that 90% of your meeting time goes away.
- In my experience, people who have met in person are far more likely to talk to each other – kick-off meetings should always be in one room (no phones, no VC, plenty of tea and biscuits) unless you have a very good reason not to.
- As short as possible, but no shorter
- If you’re chairing the meeting, don’t be afraid of telling people to shut up, or to defer the discussion until after the meeting.
- Book some contingency time. For a 30 minute meeting, plan for 25 minutes, for a 60 minute meeting, plan for 50, so there’s time to summarise and re-schedule for further discussion if necessary.
- If you get through the agenda early, finish the meeting early. Respect everyone’s time.
- Have an agenda
- And stick to it.
- Assign tasks
- There’s a risk everyone will see a task as somebody else’s problem. If it turns out someone can’t do a task for whatever reason, it can always be re-assigned.
- Don’t expect people to volunteer.
- If there’s no tasks to be assigned, there’s no point having a meeting.
- Provide feedback at a specified future date
- This is a lot more important than I expected – especially with retrospectives
- Where the actions aren’t immediate, keep the actions visible and explicitly tick them off at the next meeting
- If there is no next meeting, because there’s no further decisions, schedule an action to feedback results to the attendees
- Record actions and feedback where everyone (including potentially other projects) can refer back to them so they can see when and why decisions were made.