Voice Over - 5 April 2018

I owe you a Bundling Report. But this is my last call on sending me feedback. Please make a point of either sending me an email or visiting the blog and let me know about your experience with the Bundling experiment.

Raise your hand if any of you cancelled a meeting after reading my diatribe on the agenda-less meeting last week. Hrm. A few. Okay, well that’s better than nothing.

Anyone decline some meetings? Better. Better. Sometimes just saying no is about understanding that the person asking is making a mistake and it’s really not your problem to fix.

Standing meetings. Let’s talk regular standing meetings. I’m a fan of the standing team meeting, but I’m realistic that it serves no practical purpose other than human socialisation. We are essentially a hybrid pack/herd animal. To function well together, we must spend at least some fraction of our time doing things together that normalise our connection. Now we do this during team huddles or meetings or standups under the guise of “status updates” or “my top 3 priorities” or “what did you do this weekend”. But don’t be fooled, none of this actually serves any practical function beyond the social.

How can you say that Toast!? says the offended team leader at the back.

Because humans are notoriously shitty at remembering anything. If you’ve got a team of 10 people and each tells you three things the only thing you’re going to remember after 45 minutes is that Kathy announced she got a new puppy. The only reason you’re going to remember that is that you love your own fur baby and want to share a picture of when the wee little love bug was the size of a tea cup. Realistically, the collective move forward on coordinating your efforts as a team might be summarised on a sticky note and that in itself will only be actioned if it happens to be in the hands of the one person on your team who has a productivity system that ensures it is captured, processed and actioned.

Yet as I said, I remain a fan of the standing team meeting because it serves an immensely valuable purpose in creating a shared bond within a group of people that enables them to work as a unit for the other 30 hours of the week. And who doesn’t love puppy pictures.

Regular meetings (team or otherwise) that have a standing agenda, framework or rhythm… now those are a different animal. Try working with a team fully embedded in the Agile methodology and you’ll become a believer of the agenda-driven, recurring meeting. For this category of meeting to be effective, it requires a disciplined meeting facilitator (doesn’t have to be the leader, BTW, as any scrum master will tell you). It must also have ritual. Ritual in this context means a repeated formula for how the meeting progresses through each phase. For those at IAG who want another example, the Listen Learn Act ritual drives a good recurring meeting. The ritual creates a collaborative commitment to the meeting objectives, a familiarity that enables the animal brain to focus on the really important, higher power questions under consideration.

Since we’re done with our bundling game, how about we try a new Just Stop Asking exercise, this time around meetings.

  1. Look at all the meetings you own. Truly deeply honestly challenge whether or not each meeting should stay on the calendar. Cancel those for which you have any question and change the meeting to a personal next action to resolve a Thing. You might need the meeting back and so you’ll just reschedule. Don’t just ‘hold that space just in case’. Remember, you’re burdening a lot of other people with your uncertainty.
  2. For every meeting left in the coming two weeks, build an agenda. If it is a recurring meeting that doesn’t have an existing ritual/pattern/agenda, build one and add it to the meeting notice.
  3. If and when a meeting suddenly disappears off your calendar (because you’ve shared this blog with two friends and they’ve told two friends and suddenly everyone is pulling meetings off the calendar left, right, and centre), block that time immediately with DESK TIME until you have at least one hour back a day.
  4. Use your DESK TIME to do two things: Really wrap your head around the Thing so that the next time you set up a meeting, it’s a super useful session. Write up after meeting notes for all the meetings you own and send them to your participants.

Now maybe – just maybe – you still have DESK TIME leftover. I dream of that. If you are so lucky, bonus points. Put on a pair of headphones with your favourite concentration music, put a cup of tea or coffee near your keyboard, turn off your notifications, close your browser, hide your phone in a drawer, and do something spectacular.

Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” ~ Zig Zigla