Avoid ad-hoc meetings: Definitely the most controversial, but our process was designed to avoid the “just in time” ad-hoc meetings. The trap of ad-hoc meetings has a lot of downsides. Each one requires schedule coordination of attendees, so it can push discussions out (”can I get 15 mins to chat about X” ends up happening 2 weeks later). But even more importantly, the lack of a clear structure can often lead to unproductive meetings — people don’t know if it’s an information sharing meeting or a decision-making meeting, and it’s not clear what level of prep, etc is required. So a key litmus test for us was minimizing ad-hoc meetings by creating the right regular forums with enough time and the right attendees.
Use Bullpen meetings and broadcast messages to shorten and replace many meetings.
Come prepared and expect others to be prepared: We almost never “presented” anything in meetings. Materials were always sent in advance, and people were expected to pre-read. This takes getting used to, but is a massive time-saver once it becomes part of the culture. It also meant that almost all of our meetings were 30 minutes (even staff meeting, complicated product reviews, etc), and often ended early.
- Pre-reads (”Come prepared and expect others to be prepared”). We almost never “presented” anything in meetings. Materials were always sent in advance, and people were expected to pre-read. Almost all of our meetings were scheduled to be 30 minutes and often ended early.
Framing matters. Rather than jumping to solutions, teams quickly learned how to ask the right “eigenquestions“ and frame discussions in the right way.
Avoid rescheduling. Every time a meeting is moved, it has an enormous butterfly effect on the whole organization as they changed their schedules to match. Also, the level of preparedness for a meeting is directly proportional to the expectation that it will actually happen.
- Don’t be afraid to cancel. With standing forums and materials sent in advance, it’s generally clear before the meeting whether or not there was reason to meet. We often sent out an agenda, resolved the remaining issues, and canceled the meeting.
Tag Up Meetings
The attendees are fixed (and guests are almost never added), It’s scheduled at a fixed time each week (and not rescheduled), It has a “rollover” agenda (there’s a doc with an agenda and action items, and if you run out of time you come back to the rolled-over agenda items and action items in the next meeting).
Explicitly created for decision making Small group of recurring attendees, and a new relevant audience assembled for specific items Write-up (on Confluence) describing the decision (and the options for consideration) sent in advance via email If the decision was concluded prior to the meeting, the meeting gets cancelled
Group information sharing
Message (slack or email) with information followed up by an in person meeting for questions. Context of topic should be shared in the message so that in person meeting does not have to set the scene
Unstructured time where everyone is required to stay (even if they are doing their own work). Can chat about any topic while in the bullpen
How does this translate to my world
Engineering All hands - 30 min prep content with a 30 minute bullpen
SEM Management Meeting - 30 min tag up meeting with 1 hour bullpen