On Meetings and Standups

Meetings are often a test of fortitude. Twirling a pen, doodling, and daydreaming are only a few of the saving distractions from the gnawing boredom. Tuning in and out of a conversation that has little or no impact on you, you scan around the room, questioning why some of the invitees are even here and how others haven’t died of boredom yet. You peck away on your laptop, sending IMs of, “Please kill me” to your colleagues, looking for any chance of comedic reprieve.

Lengthy, unorganized meetings are a chronic problem.

In software development, almost every Agile methodology has adopted something akin to the ‘stand-up’ – a concise meeting of collaborators that has well-defined goals, often to convey project progress. The stand-up was created ┬áin response to the problems of a traditional meeting as it encourages brevity, attentiveness, and personal value for the attendees. Unfortunately, as you may know, even stand-ups fall prey to rambling and derailment.

If you are an organizer, one solution to maintain meeting efficacy is to imagine that you are personally paying all attendees by the hour. With this mindset, the following becomes natural:

  • Invitations only go out to the necessary parties
  • Targeted goals and a set agenda
  • You become a more active leader, forcing distracting conversation to be curbed for when it is not ‘on the clock’
  • Meeting length time shortens as value increases

If you imagine that everyone in the room is making $50/hour, wasted time in meetings quickly becomes expensive. I often see this perspective maintained and enforced the best by current or former small business owners, since the cost of time to them is very real. Conversely, it is easy to lose perspective when working in a larger organization as people are dissociated from the costs of conducting business.

Furthermore, by establishing a reputation for having short, highly-effective meetings, your colleagues will no longer disdain attending the meetings nor will they be caught daydreaming in the middle of one!