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Meeting Waste

“I can’t get any work done because I’m in meetings all day!” I hear this all the time, about Agile, and about corporate life in general. It makes me sad because work should be getting done IN meetings, but it isn’t. Here’s why.

Too much time is spent figuring out how to manage the work.

If your team is spending most of their time together churning on how to track progress, such as what to put in the status report or what columns to use for the kanban or the spreadsheet, you’re spending too much time figuring out how to manage work. Find someone who knows how to manage work, like a scrum master or Agile coach, and just go with their recommendation. You can tweak it over time, but it’s not worth churning about. There are effective ways to manage work, and inventing new ones is not effective for teams that are stuck.

Too much time is spent coordinating work.

As a result of the corporate experiment with matrixed organizations coupled with over-specialization, we’ve become a world of work-coordinators. You think it’s because your business is so complex but it’s not. We’ve created this monster and we can make it go away. Instead of having work coordinators, let people coordinate themselves, in Agile this is called ‘self-organizing teams’. People know what they need and who they need to talk to. Let them figure it out.

Too much time is spent discussing progress.

Do your status meetings sound like this: “I made good progress on item A. I’m working on item B…”? Talking about progress is completely useless. No one can take action from a progress report.

I recommend that teams talk about two things for update meetings:

1) What’s completed?

2) What’s impeded?

If it’s not blocked or slowed, you don’t need to talk about it. Talking about things that are on track is a total waste of time.

Too much time is spent talking separately and then trying to reconcile information.

The pre-meeting meeting is generally a waste of time. There are exceptions to this, but generally, if you want to get everyone to agree on the content before the meeting, you don’t need to have the meeting. Let people disagree or shake out misalignments in the meeting, that’s what meetings are for.

The exception is prep for new process or scope. Anytime you want to prevent a hijacking or let someone save face you can have a pre-meeting meeting. But if you find that you are having too many pre-meeting meetings, it’s a red flag that trust is low. Try focusing on building trust instead of building pre-alignment.

How have you cleaned up meeting waste? Let us know!

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