I can’t help but think that I am spending to much time in meetings when I am with clients lately. That’s not to say I am going to too many – it’s just that I am in them too long when I get there. I have seen a pattern about meetings that I have been unhappy with for ages and it goes something like this.
- People turn up late because another meeting overran
- We all sit and wait for all the attendees to arrive
- The meeting kind of starts, usually with who ever has organised it being slightly frustrated
- We wander haphazardly through an ‘agenda’
- When the main stuff has been discussed we discuss ‘any other business’ before the meeting fizzles out altogether
- We leave – either late for our next meeting, or eventually find our way back to our desks after wondering what the point of that meeting was.
Surely this can’t go on. And surely, I cant be the only one that thinks it’s a total waste of time. Actually, I know I am not the only one as I frequently hear team members say “we have too many meetings. So many meetings in fact, that I can’t do any work.” I have to agree.
So, in the spirit of trying something out instead of grumbling, I thought we should try a different approach and I am going to call it Test Driven Meetings. Basically, they are like User Stories. I figure if we think our projects should use user stories we should too. Anyway, they look something like this:
As a <meeting organiser>
I want to get <some outcome / decision / agreement>
So that <something is unblocked / we can deliver more value>
And then, we could have acceptance criteria:
We will know the meeting is over then <some consensus>
And I guess you could have a few of these.
So, it’s lighter than an agenda. It doesn’t have timings that are made up. It does have a clear purpose, we know when we are off topic and we know when we have got to the point we originally wanted to get to so we can end and go and be productive again. Which is nice…
Let’s face it, meetings need to happen and I am not bonkers enough to think that there isn’t a place for them, but we do need to see them for what they are – not what Outlook wants them to be.
Calendar clients, like all tools, drive behaviour. We seem to grant meetings great importance because they are ‘in our calendar’. We also think they should be 30 or 60 minutes long because thats a default time that is set. We need to break the chains of the client and take control of meetings again. We’d need to get agreement on that first though. Tell you what, I’ll put something in your calendar – if I can find a room….