Leading business coach, Belinda Waldock, explains why traditional meetings are often unsuccessful, and how you can use agile methods to achieve far more when you meet colleagues or clients.
Meetings are critical to keep teams in tune with the business, share updates, keep everyone informed, check things are on course and work together to come up with innovative solutions and positive ways forward collectively.
Traditional monthly team meetings no longer suit, businesses need to make decisions rapidly and keep the team informed. Long planning meetings are rarely productive for all, resulting in feeling their time would be better spent doing some work.
Methods for agile meetings provide a model for quick and timely meetings with clear structure and content. Agile tools provide real time communication dashboards to focus meetings and maintain communications as well as track progress in between meetings.
Set your own pace
Monthly meetings are often too far apart, and weekly meetings too close, rather than using calendar months or weeks, agile teams determine their own rhythm for review and planning meetings by creating sprints of work, often between 1-3 weeks long, sometimes longer, dependant on the project and teams needs.
The objective of a sprint meeting is to reflect upon the previous sprint of work and to plan the next sprint of work. The meeting is often held around three quarters of the way through the current sprint.
Have a daily huddle
Monthly meetings often end up with a lot of talking and not a lot of action. Agile methods look to work in a ‘little and often’ mind set, that if we talk every day then things don’t build up
Huddles, or Stand Up meetings are used in agile methods for the team to share their day to day work. Each huddle available members of the team update the other members on their current activity. A huddle is a fast and rapid meeting that allows each team members to share:
What was done yesterday
What work is in progress today
What is planned for tomorrow
Any blocks that are limiting workflow
Any changes that need to be discussed urgently
By dealing with the day to day on a daily basis the team are more responsive to blocks and opportunities and maintain daily contact with each other to encourage more cohesive team working.
Go all retro
A key aspect of agile management is to create time for reflection and learning. At a retrospective meeting the team review 4 key review questions in order to inform the fifth ‘what next’ question that leads into forward planning for the next sprint of work:
What is going well?
What can we do better?
What has changed?
What’s blocked or stuck?
Visualise your work as a team
Agile teams use visual dashboards and roadmaps to help the team keep track from the daily workflow to the big picture. Creating a dashboard of the current sprints activities helps to inform the team on the work in progress and acts as a tool and guide for daily huddles, sprint meetings and retrospectives.
Stick to the agenda
Sticky notes are a simple and effective visual aid to help structure meetings. Capture agenda items on sticky notes at the start of the meeting, order them and assign time to them and use these to guide the structure of the meeting.
Use additional notes to capture and park non-agenda items during discussions to avoid distractions and revisit them at the end of the meeting, or to set as follow up actions or discussions.
Take away actions
Meeting minutes are notorious for only being read during the meeting, actions go missing, and key decisions and activities get lost in the detail.
Capture actions on sticky notes during the meeting rather than after, photograph the notes and email them to the team. Sharing the image is more familiar and easier to recall than typed minutes and can be immediately shared with the team as the last action of the meeting. This is a great way to assign ownership and accountability of an action in a practical way too, once captured by photographing, individual action notes can be taken away as reminders at the end of the meeting.
Getting everyone together can be a challenge with flexible working and teams often distributed geographically. When a team is distributed clear and regular communication is vital to ensure the team work as effectively together rather than drift apart.
Take advantage of video conferencing solutions like Skype, online shared space like Google Drive and virtual dashboards like Trello so everyone can join the meeting wherever they might be at that time or on that day.
Set the alarm on your phone to go just before the agenda items allotted time is up to help keep timing on track in the meeting
Agile methods for bringing teams together aim to achieve a point where awareness is so good that meetings are quick, simple and built into the rhythm and day to day activities of the team rather than one off separate activities. Sprint meetings are an opportunity for refection and planning and are made quicker and simpler by having simple structures and tools to run flexible and responsive meetings.
Agile methods work to empower teams to be self-organising and take ownership of the management of their meetings to improve their performance, ensuring any time spent in meetings is optimised and adds value to their day.
Belinda Waldock is a leading business coach who has worked to help hundreds of small to medium sized businesses to overcome the challenges of fast growth by adopting agile practices to create a culture of agility.
Find out more about agile meetings and team working in Belinda’s new book Being Agile in Business, which is available as a paperback or ebook, published by Pearson. You can also view the book on Amazon.