Discover more from Briefly Meet
Reconsider Meetings - a vision
Poorly organised meetings are a waste of time and demotivate participants
It's time we had a serious talk about meetings. There are a lot of them happening every day in all shapes and forms. But not all of them should be meetings and most of them are simply unorganized group discussions.
How do people organize a meeting these days? They open a calendar, add a bunch of names, write a word as a title (maybe a few words if you are lucky), choose a time, and press send. It is somehow expected for all participants to know the subject, to get directly into the flow when the meeting starts, and to actively participate without any preparation. There is an expectation to create value as a group.
There is a lot of brain waste, a potential for demotivation, and for conflicts when an unorganized, unprepared meeting takes place.
It turns out many meetings don’t work. Here is why:
Some meetings should not exist. These are the ones that have an objective that could be solved by an email or writing a chat message. Examples of such meetings: everything with Status in the subject, Standups, Check-ins, Daily syncs etc.
Some meetings are for other people. These are the ones where you are invited, you go, and there is almost no contribution from you to the subject and most probably no real reason for you to be in the meeting. Either they invited too many people to attend overestimating the need, or it is not your expertise field.
Some meetings should happen only after preparation is done. These are the ones where addressing the meeting objective needs preparation, where the participants need to know some concepts or details to be able to contribute. If nobody is prepared with the subject matter, the meeting will quickly evolve into information sharing which could have easily been achieved via email or any other async form.
Some meetings don't have a clear objective or outcome. These are the ones where nobody has any idea about what can be achieved; there are no guidelines about the value that will be added. They also tend to span over multiple sessions as most of the time is consumed trying to figure out what needs to be achieved.
Some meetings should have an agenda. These are useful and needed, but time is wasted when trying to figure out how the meeting should be organized during the meeting or the discussion is going random places and it takes a lot of time to get back on track. These meetings are mostly the ones where there is no agenda, but also no process to quickly create one at the beginning and as a result, (important) items are popping up all the time until the end.
Some meetings are not designed. These are the meetings where you are invited and then people expect you to bring new insights or add some unique value without any preparation or flow. The most common one is often titled "Brainstorming", where people just invite you to a meeting and expect you to be creative once the meeting has started.
Sometimes it might feel great to meet with our colleagues, but most of the time we are suddenly invited to a meeting, disrupting our flow, costing us time, and making it hard to focus on our work.
What impact do these meetings have:
They consume too much time. If you organize a one-hour meeting and invite 5 people then you consume at least 6 hours (organizer included). Add the time wasted before and after the meeting for each participant and you could easily get to 7-8 hours spent only on a meeting.
They interrupt. Someone is in the flow, working on their tasks, and then they need to stop, switch to the context of the meeting, participate then get back to work, and spent time to reconnect with what they were doing.
They demotivate. Poorly designed weekly meetings, no matter their subject, will demotivate participants in the long run and they will lose interest to bring value to the meeting. This kind of meeting will soon switch to a time wasted that everybody knows will come and that everybody just wants to get it over with as quickly as possible.
They force people to behave in a specific way. Most meetings don't take into account personality diversity and expect everybody to be chatty, to speak in public, and be extroverted.
If you are looking for a 5-step process to organize a better meeting it might look like this:
Every meeting should have a clear output or outcome
Ask yourself if you really need a synchronous meeting to achieve the outcome. If not, then don't do the meeting
Pick the right participants
Have a clear agenda
Have a pre-defined process or flow of the meeting that takes different personalities and participants' motivations into account
Brief the participants before the meeting about the process, the expected results, and how they can contribute
Have ready some scenarios for handling unexpected branching of the meeting process. Be prepared with various decision-making processes, and be ready to engage in various situations (e.g. what happens if you run out of time, some people do not attend, etc)
Ok, we said 5 steps, but we wrote down 7 and it really doesn’t matter, because there’s no such easy process to cover every need. Each meeting is unique and you need to adjust and adapt. A meeting varies depending on its type, objective, participants, knowledge of participants, duration, facilitator, agenda, and many more points.
This is why we are building BrieflyMeet: a place where you can ask for help or find resources to better design and organize your own specific meeting to achieve your objectives. Or help you decide that what you need is not an asynchronous meeting, but an organized asynchronous group work.