Better meetings are not a myth, but it starts with deconstructing how you got to where you are today. A hectic calendar and meetings showing up like popcorn.
What can you do to improve this? Managers and individual contributors can start by focusing on what the goal of the meeting is. If the goal of the meeting is to solve a problem, that's a yellow flag.
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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Meetings. Meetings are whether you like it or not an important part of your job. At least unless you are running a single person startup and even then you'll probably have some kind of meeting at some point of meetings with the people who use your product. You'll have meetings with external services. You'll have meetings with financial advisors. Whoever it is, you're going to have meetings. Meetings are often demonized as the anti-productive way of spending your time. In fact, many leading business minds regard meetings as something to minimize. And we're not going to rail against that on this podcast necessarily. But instead, I do want to talk about how to make your meetings more effective. Put them in their right place and leverage them as well as you possibly can. And we're not going to do this in one episode. We're going to split this up across a couple of episodes. We're going to cover one topic in each of those episodes. One specific thing that you should focus on. In today's episode, we're going to cover the topic of establishing a goal for your meeting. You might think about this as the purpose of the meeting. Why are we meeting in the first place? I'm going to steal from an early Intel CEO's opinion on this Andy Grove. Andy says that there are basically two different kinds of meetings. One is process oriented meetings. These are things that you come to expect. You're one-on-ones with the manager, your staff meetings, all hands, skip-level meetings. Maybe your planning sessions, your refinement of your backlog, your retros. These are all process-oriented meetings. And you could even include things that are kind of on-demand, like for example, at post-mortem, because they have an established process. They're you kind of following the established process for the specific outcomes that you care about. We'll talk about that in just a moment. The second kind of meeting is a mission-oriented meeting. These are ad hoc meetings centered around a specific output. But usually this is a decision. We're going to talk about both of these and talk about what you're optimizing for in today's episode. The first is the process-oriented meeting. These are the output of each of your process meetings is variable. It's not going to be the same amongst all of them. For example, the output of a one-on-one might actually change from week to week. And that is part of the design of the one-on-one. There are some meetings that do have specified outputs, like refinement. But importantly, the process that is used to accomplish those outputs is often quite important as well. The kind of side effects of the process matter. In the case of refinement, some of the side effects are breaking down the work and talking about the specifics, doing some kind of estimation. Even the estimation sub-process, if you will, has value that extends beyond the output of the estimation. For example, if you have two engineers, one estimates that the work is a small amount and the other estimates that it's a larger amount, there's some kind of information that is unearthed in this process. And so these process-oriented meetings follow a process that has multiple outputs, typically with one primary output that you care the most about. In other words, if you have a refinement session that does not provide output of actionable tasks, well, you didn't really actually accomplish the goal of the meeting, even if there were other positive side effects. We'll talk about mission-oriented meetings right after we talk about sending a sponsor. This episode of Developer Te is brought to you by Launch Darkly. Launch Darkly is feature management for the modern enterprise, fundamentally changing how you deliver software. Here's how it works. Launch Darkly enables development and operations teams to deploy code at any time, even if a feature isn't ready to be released to users. We've been talking about meetings on this episode. How many times have you had a meeting to discuss whether a feature was ready or not? To discuss whether all of the teams were absolutely ready to release this thing? Well, maybe your team is and you want to check it out in production, but not everyone else is ready. You can do that with Launch Darkly. Code and field advice. It speaks of the safety to test those features, test your infrastructure in the production environment rather than in some lowly staging or development environment that doesn't have everything all wired up without impacting the wrong end users. When you're ready to release more widely, just update the flag and the changes are made instantaneously by the real-time streaming architecture. Go and check it out. Get started today for free at launchdarkly.com. Thanks again to Launch Darkly for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. We're going to talk about mission-oriented meetings in just a moment, but I want to give you a yellow flag here on the goal orientation of your meeting. If you start to see one of two things happening, either the number of meetings that you have starts to lean heavily into mission-oriented meetings. And usually this means that you have a lot of meetings that pop up on your calendar. Last minute, you have a lot of different meetings every week. One person is asking you for a meeting tomorrow. A totally different person is asking you for a meeting next week on the same day. This is a sign that your process-oriented meetings are not solving enough. Think about this for a second. Your process-oriented meetings are intended to be how you get work done. They should be your highest-leveraged tool as far as synchronous collaboration goes. And synchronous collaboration is very expensive. And so when you have these out-of-band mission-oriented meetings that occur, they should pick up where your process-oriented meetings leave off. In other words, maybe the mission-oriented meeting is required as a limited time kind of collaboration between two disparate teams. Or maybe there is a mission-oriented meeting about an unexpected change in the market. The important thing to recognize is that if you continue to have this overflow of mission-oriented meetings, then it's likely that you need to inspect not the mission-oriented meetings, but instead the process-oriented meetings. What are your process-oriented meetings not providing that you're having to resort to last-minute ad hoc meetings in order to get things done? Now, with that said, let's talk about mission-oriented meetings. Mission-oriented meetings are intended to provide a specific outcome like a decision. We can't always make critical decisions in a process-oriented meeting because we don't always have all of the parties necessary to make the decision. Additionally, we have to think about the ongoing cost of process meetings as well. If we have process meetings for decisions that we rarely make, but they're recurring, then we're paying extra overhead for something that we don't need to do very often. In other words, it might make sense to just deal with those on a one-off basis. But here's how it all comes together. We've talked a lot about process orientation, a lot about a mission orientation for your meetings. Why does this matter to what your goal is? Well, ultimately, if your goal is to produce a one-time output, something that you don't expect to have to do again, or if you're going to do it, it's going to be sporadic and difficult to predict. If your goal is to produce a specific decision at a point in time, then a mission-oriented meeting is likely what you're actually scheduling. If your goal is instead to address a process issue, right? A good example of this is, well, we just don't have enough information in our backlog. We need to address the lack of information in our backlog. Our gut reaction might be, let's address this in a single kind of marathon session. Let's get our backlog into order and then we'll be good going forward. But instead, we should be thinking about how the backlog got to the state that it's in today. How can we change our process and by extension our process-oriented meetings? Do we, for example, need to change the criteria for putting a card in the backlog? Or maybe we need to extend the length of time that we're spending in our refinement session. Or maybe we need to set aside specific time as individuals asynchronously to calm through the backlog in advance. There's a lot of things that we could do, but the important thing to flag is when we start going to meetings as a solution to a problem. We shouldn't think about meetings as a solution to a problem. Instead, we should think about meetings as an opportunity to create some kind of output, to affect some kind of change. A mission-oriented meeting is intended to change the status of a decision from undecided to decided. This is not solving a specific problem. It's changing something. A process-oriented meeting is not solving an issue because if there's an issue, it's likely created by a bad process. Instead, we adjust our process-oriented meetings so that the output prevents those problems from happening in the future. Once you understand your goal in a meeting, you can then progress on to improve the meeting from the perspective of optimizing for that goal. In future episodes, we're going to talk about how you fit into that picture. How do you optimize for that goal? And what should you watch out for in yourself and in others? Stay enjoying the business coverage, get your front-end