Executives spend 23 hours per week in meetings, on average. As an executive, you spend more than half of your working hours in meetings. When the deadline strikes zero, you’re not necessarily happier with the results. So, what’s going on with meetings? How can we make them more productive?
I work in an industry that is probably subjected to the most meetings and scrums and communication sessions possible. In Web Development, we keep in touch with our clients a lot. Web and App Development is not precisely a cheap service. It’s important that we validate our work, otherwise, we risk going in the wrong direction. While the client pays for our time. I learned to optimize my time and hold meetings that are (1) short, (2) informative, and (3) strategic.
It was a bit of a learn-or-die experience. I survived my industry, so you know I know what I’m talking about.
How unproductive are our meetings?
Studies tell us that 9 out of 10 people who don’t have the role of moderator daydream in meetings. 73% of employees do other work while in a meeting. What about the moderator? 25% of sessions are spent discussing irrelevant issues, and 75% of people have received no formal training on conducting a meeting. About half of the discussions become at least unproductive, if not counterproductive.
Let’s change these numbers!
A good brief sets the tone for your next meetings
At your first meeting, you are generally expected to come prepared with a list of core features and a short description of how the product will be used. Regardless of the type of project, your brief has to answer three important questions. I advise you to bookmark these questions in your browser, just to form a good habit of organizing information that you find online:
- What is your target audience?
- How is your client going to use the product that we are building?
- How will the people in your company use the product we are building?
In my industry, this gives me a world of information. I get an idea about the front end of a product, the back end, and the spirit in which we are working.
Write things down before meetings and sessions
After the meeting, you remember small details that you forgot to discuss. You feel like you didn’t really talk about all there is to talk about. You have the nagging feeling that you missed a lot of spots. That’s not what a successful meeting feels like.
Adrenalin wipes short-term memory. You might be stressed, tired, or under a bit of a threat because half the people in the meeting are strangers. All that you said to yourself you should remember vanishes. You can almost feel that empty spot in your memory and you know you forgot something big. That’s why our conversations sound a lot better in our heads. When three pairs of eyes are on you, your brain understands it doesn’t need information about that graph you saw yesterday. On the other hand, once the meeting becomes stuffy, you are 5 to 10% better at running than usual, so there’s that.
Write down beforehand what you want to discuss in your meetings. Don’t be that person that says they have it all in their head. That’s how information gets lost and emails with “one more important thing” start flying back and forth.
Use the weekly status meeting to shape the product while being built
Working with Agile is the standard in IT. Agile generally schedules work sprints of one or two weeks, with meetings at the top of those sprints. Here’s where developers show what they have done so far, and the client gives feedback and speaks his mind about desired changes. Try to use these meetings to their full potential. If you mindlessly rush to agree to whatever the other party tells you, you will end up in a final delivery meeting in which you, as a client, will be disappointed by the result.
Here are three very wrong reasons why clients are in a hurry to approve work:
- They want to shorten the meeting. If the deliverable ends up not being what you want, you didn’t shorten anything. You simply borrowed time from future you.
- They feel like the details being presented are not relevant. When you work with a good team, trust them. They will only showcase things that are relevant to you.
- They hate negativity. Feedback and being agreeable are like water and electricity – they don’t mix. If you have to give negative feedback and you are more on the agreeable side, just do the feedback sandwich or be your fabulous polite self. Just don’t question yourself. Do not ignore your intuition and don’t ever worry about us crying in the bathroom after the meeting. We have paper napkins and everything.
Sometimes, you simply might not know whether you like something or not. Ask for extra details and make the team walk you through their process. What should I look for? How do I know this is good? How does this feature help me? Explain to me what you did and why again, because I can’t decide.
When you’re not certain, tell us. We know how to walk you through the whole decision process to find out why you’re not 100% on board.
If you apply these practices, I can guarantee that the release will be smooth, and the workflow will be undisturbed. Of course, there are fringe-case exceptions, but that’s why Agile deals with such small increments so that you can minimize risk. You, the creator and primary driver of the project are expected to work shoulder to shoulder with the development team.
Imagine your project is a ship.
The developers are the sailors. Their job is to keep the boat moving forward. You, the vessel captain, have to lead the way and steer them in the right direction. You can’t do that without checking your map and compass from time to time, can you?
Leaving the rum aside, make sure you always tell your development team PRECISELY what you want and what your expectations are. This way, your meetings will be at their most effective. By the end of the project, you will know they were not a waste of time.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Will Durant (“The Story of Philosophy”, 1926)
With that in mind, I encourage you to apply this to your meetings. Make these simple principles your habits.
Sooner than you might think, your meetings’ effectiveness will improve, and you will be one step closer to your project’s success.
If you need help with any of your software challenges, feel free to book a free strategy call with Andrei, Neo Vision’s CTO.
Best regards and see you at our next meeting!
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