Meetings, meetings. I hear complaints about meetings just about every day including, believe it or not, Agile or Scrum meetings. Too many, too long, too boring, too many slides, too many people, too few people, and the most popular, uninterested meeting participants typing away with laptops or with mobile phones in hand. In thinking about what appears to be an epidemic of listless meetings I realized that I have been guilty of setting up, facilitating, or participating in plenty of meetings with these agonizing characteristics over my career – and I’m ready to change that.
I pulled out some notes from a webinar last year that talked about how to improve your meetings and have summarized some of the key points here. When scheduling our next meeting and planning out the content and outcome, the meeting should exhibit at least one of the following attributes and if not, perhaps we should question if we need the meeting at all.
Stir Imagination and Curiosity. Encourage people to dream a little and look at their world with wide-eyed-wonder. Find ways to facilitate group involvement to solve some of the teams bigger issues by fostering as many ideas as possible. I believe every meeting should have some element of physical movement and activity to it – even if its just a couple of minutes – to foster engagment and energy. I have used Open Space techniques in the past to get people moving and draw out themes and ideas from groups to stir creativity and group-think. There are plenty of other practices you can use to stir imagination and curiosity but try something to get people out of their seats every once in awhile.
Increase Team Bonding. Every participant should connect at some level with the other meeting participants. This may mean a period of acknowledgment or gratitude or a round-the-room headline share about what they did over the weekend. Perhaps someone can take a moment to tell a story (a war story from a past experience or a moment of triumph) relating to the meeting topic. In my opinion, every voice should be heard from, especially those who are participating remotely.
Motivate Rapid Action. Have you ever sat through a meeting and at the end thought “What just happened? Is someone supposed to do something now?” If the expectation for your meeting is to trigger some kind of response or action, make it crystal clear what it is at the beginning of the meeting and close with the details at the end.
Enhance Enthusiasm. Ditch the old “status meeting” or “monthly review” format where someone reads from PowerPoint slides for an hour or two. Instead, send the slides out early and use the meeting time to celebrate successes (and failures). Share progress on the company or team vision. Have people share an inspiring story of a recently solved problem.
Retrospectives should result in a combination of all four of these elements. And one last thing to understand about making your meeting successful…it takes:
A Crazy Amount of Preparation. I recently wrapped up two days of training at the Agile Coaching Institute last week and it was mentioned there that the amount of time spent on preparation should be DOUBLE the length of your meeting. So, a one hour meeting would require two hours of preparation. Are you willing to put in that kind of effort to make your meeting memorable?