Meetings are toxic. So is bleach. And, I hope, you wouldn’t stop cleaning your house.
Whenever a meeting is needed, you should make it as productive as possible
If you decide you absolutely must get together, try to make your meeting a productive one by sticking to this simple rules
* Set a timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period. * Invite as few people as possible. * Always have a clear agenda. * Begin with a specific problem. * Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things and suggest real changes. * End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.
DHH & Fried, Rework. “Meetings are toxic”.
But take into account that a productive meeting is not the same for everyone involved.
In order for you to feel a meeting was a great success, which of the following should happen?
A. In a good meeting, a decision is made. B. In a good meeting, various viewpoints are discussed and debated. C. In a good meeting, a formal stamp is put on a decision that has been made before the meeting.
The large majority of Americans responding to this question chose option A. The French, however, largely chose option B. And most Chinese and Japanese selected option C.
Erin Meyer, The Culture Map, “The big D, the small d”
What is the meeting for? Why are we meeting? Having in mind what are the expectations for the meeting will be a key step into making the meeting a productive one.
You are working in an agile team, so you probably find a good idea using a kanban panel, a lean comm-cell or something like that.
… what if you are in a remote team? Lots of applications solve this from a technical point of view. Whiteboard emulators, with virtual post-its and sharpies on colours you can’t even name.
And then the problems arise. You are discussing an issue and the panel is not there, directly visible. Maybe the application is not open, so you need to log in, and maybe your password expired yesterday night, so you end up discussing without looking at the board.
Maybe the team is not 100% remote, and a part of the team is co-located while others are remote. Then, the people at the office find convenient having a physical panel, so they can interact easily with it even with the computers off. Nice idea, but then the remote workers can’t watch it, can’t update it.
What could we do? As many times, the answer is… it depends.
team 100% remote: go digital. 100% digital. Everybody meets in front of a screen, so it’s convenient to have 2 windows, one with the IM/videoconference software, the other with the board. And while working, the board must be open. Always.
team 100% colocated: go with the whiteboard. 100% physical. You benefit from the size, the fact that is always present and the easiness of manipulating items.
part remote, part co-located: this is the hard situation. Best case scenario is going digital with a big screen (MS-Surface?) always on, so the colocated people still benefit from the 100% co-located scenario, and every meeting with the remote colleagues will benefit from having online app. If can’t afford a Surface, a 45″ screen will do the trick with an small computer (arduino?), a mouse and a keyboard permanently attached, on and open so you can easily manipulate it.
And as always, try, inspect and adapt. Plan, do, check and act. You already know…
Remote. Office not Required (Friend, DHH): “Feeling like a second-class worker doesn’t take much.[…] There’s also the annoyance of having every debate end with ‘John and I talked about this in the office yesterday and decided that you idea isn’t going to work’. Fuck that.”
Combining Lean with Agile: the developer perspective (Kris Hoogendoorn): “Above is a photograph of our Scrum board before we embarked on our Lean journey and a picture of our Lean Comm Cell today. You can immediately see how Lean has transformed our daily stand-up. Instead of just focusing on progress with the Scrum board, we now focus on three additional aspects every day”
Kanban Boards, Atlassian. “Regardless of whether a team’s board is physical or digital, their function is to ensure the team’s work is visualized, their workflow is standardized, and all blockers and dependencies are immediately identified and resolved.”
The lessons learned from doing well give you a better chance at continuing your success. (Jason Fried, signalvsnoise.com)
But winning is too.
Sometimes you have no other option that losing. Your competition is far stronger than you. You are an amateur playing against a professional. You are in bad shape this season or in a wrong mood today. Or you don’t have enough experience… yet.
You are going to lose. But you won’t get shaper, nor stronger, you won’t reach pro level, nor acquire enough experience just by quitting.
Sometimes you just need to lose, and losing while making your best effort is far better than winning by default.