Evolve your meetings beyond agendas and action items to achieve better outcomes

Meeting outcomes

So… I need to teach people about the different types of meetings and how to know what truly warrants a synchronous meeting. I’m going to ask Bob to help.

Me (Wendy): “Hey Bob, I need help in “teaching” people about what warrants a synchronous meeting, and what doesn’t, and what people need to do. Remember in the old days, whenever we received a meeting invitation without agendas, we “teach” people by asking them what the agenda is, and we won’t show up if there isn’t one? I think we need to do something similar.”

Bob: “Yeah. We were notorious for declining meetings without agendas…”

Me: “That was fun 😉 However nowadays agendas and the action items are not enough. People are still behaving in the old way, everything needs a meeting, resulting in back to back meetings for most of the day. Then we do our work afterwards. That’s exhausting.”

Bob: “Right.”

Me: “I’ve been talking to Peter about the 4 different types of meetings that we discussed. Peter gets it but it’s not something he’s used to thinking. He said we need to teach people the thinking behind scheduling a meeting. He is right that it’s a mindset shift. It would take time for people to adjust. So, maybe, whenever we get a meeting invitation, we ask “what is the objective of this meeting? What do you want to achieve from this meeting?” This would teach people to think more about the outcome than the output (i.e. agenda and the resulting action items). We can then tell people that most of the objectives and outcomes don’t need a synchronous meeting. And we don’t show up if it’s not for collaboration, brainstorming, or decision making?”

Bob: “I think this will help, but we need to do more than ask about the objective and outcome. I’ve seen a lot of people write lousy objectives like “Meet to sync up on blah-blah-blah”.”

Me: “Oh, that is very common. But that’s a “sync-up”. A sync-up doesn’t need a meeting. That’s mostly information sharing. We can tell people they can do that over Slack or Loom. It’s like the meeting that Peter wanted to call to share a piece of information, or to get input for the company offsite fun activities. We can remind people of that. What do you think?”

Bob: “Yup, that’s one guiding principle, that information sharing and gathering doesn’t require a meeting. It’s more effective to be done asynchronously via Slack, as we have already demonstrated. If people have questions, they can ask in Slack.”

Me: “Right. And if they still have questions, then we can decide whether we need a synchronous meeting to get the questions answered faster.”

Bob: “Exactly. Let’s come up with working agreements with the teams of when to have a meeting (synchronous), when not to (asynchronous), and what questions to ask. Let’s start with informational meetings.”

Yikes! More work to do. At least Bob gives me some good ideas on how to “teach” people about the different types of meetings and how to know what truly warrants a synchronous meeting. How do you think we fare? Come back next time and find out!

Read Wendy’s entire story here


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: