Meetings Archive


Jazz Hands at the Daily Standup

While doing an Agile assessment in Des Moines, Iowa, we noticed a team would periodically do “jazz hands”.  When we asked the ScrumMaster (Iteration Manager) what was going on, she said others within earshot of the daily standup complained about the team being too loud. In the past, whenever there was good news, the team would cheer and clap.  As a result, in order to continue to show their excitement, the team members now all do “jazz hands”.

Team “Seniom Sed” (Des Moines backwards), it has been a pleasure watching you all work for the last few days. Actually, it’s been a pleasure working with each of the teams. I get one more day to enjoy your addictive enthusiasm.

Keep up the great work!


Say Goodbye to that Expensive Meeting

WowBack in August (2010) I wrote about attending a $17,904 meeting.  It was painful to watch the PMO have a 3 hour meeting every month that seemed to cost so much but deliver so little value.  As a follow-up post, I wrote about the value proposition for the expensive meeting.

I am happy to report that the meeting in question has been cancelled indefinitely.  In one year alone, the cost savings is $214,848.  Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of money added to your budget?  I want to be clear that I’m not being a hater of meetings.  I’m being a hater of waste.  Time and money are precious and I strongly believe we need everyone to communicate more.  But it’s about communicating effectively.  I can facilitate the communication of more strategic information, without saying a word, by using a enterprise level Kanban.  I can facilitate the communication of more tactical information, by having Daily Scrums or Stand-ups.

Though the cancellation was months in the making, I commend those who finally made the difficult (but necessary) choice.  It’s easy to complain about things but accept the status quo.  It’s hard to ask why and then act on it appropriately.

Drawings by Pictofigo



Zombie Meeting

Zombie MeetingOne of the things I like about the zombie metaphor is people get it.  We all know a zombie when we see it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a zombie project, customer, vendor, co-worker, or…a meeting.  Oh yes, the dreaded zombie meeting.  But what if you’re on the fence when it comes to identifying zombie meetings?  I’ve written a few posts of what makes a good meeting.  It’s time to now list what makes a bad meeting.

But wait!  Why the negativity?  Isn’t this blog mostly positive information?  Sure, but I recently read, on Dan Pink’s blog, an explanation of why you should come up with at least one bad idea today.  I found that the idea really worked.  I would say I decline around 80% of meeting invites.  But, why do I decline so many?  Here are a few reasons why.  Each reason identifies a potential zombie meeting.  If you go to these meetings, you risk being sucked into the horde already attending.  Take a moment to review the list.

You may be in a Zombie Meeting if…

[1] No purposed reason for the meeting, with actionable events in mind.
e.g. “Provide an updated status, identifying risks and opportunities, and identify new action items.”

[2] No defined attendee list, mapped to the actionable events listed in step 1.  There is a difference between an attendee list and a communications distribution list.  I get meeting invites sent to a program level distribution list.  My name isn’t even on the email.  It just states “If you’re interested in attending, the meeting…”

[3] No agenda. Never schedule a meeting without a written agenda.
A meeting without an agenda will just wander aimlessly, until you run out of time or someone kicks you out of the room.

[4] No predefined leader, is running the meeting.  Zombies don’t have leaders.  They usually group into a horde.  If there is no leader, the meeting will just drift.

[5] No predefined note taker, identified to document action items or take notes.  It should not be the same person.  Both [4] and [5] should know their roles before the meeting begins and it can’t be the same person.  Ever go to a meeting with the intent of being an active participant only to be asked to take notes or lead the meeting, a few minutes into the meeting?  It will totally change your focus.

[6] Discussion points do not align to the agenda. This part is challenging because you are already in the meeting.  You had no idea it was going to turn into a zombie meeting, before accepting.  These is no easy way out.  If the conversation drifts off topic, either recommend taking the discussion to another forum or start thinking of an exit strategy.

[7] Meeting ends without having the note taker read back discussion points and the action items. Make sure there is a consensus before the meeting ends.  If you see meetings ending without a review, add it to the agenda.

[8] Meeting minutes are not sent out within one to two days. Did the meeting even happen?  If the minutes are not distributed and approved, then it is like it never happened. Use a distribution list to ensure all necessary people get a copy.

[9] Meeting starts late. If you don’t start on time, you can’t finish on time.  Zombies are in no hurry.  Those who will arrive late should just call in, rather than disrupt the meeting.  I’m not saying you should board up the room entrance with plywood or anything.  It’s just rude to arrive late to a meeting.  If you stick to a schedule and you know the meeting will be a zombie meeting, calling in or use something like GoToMeeting to help shield yourself from the zombies.

[10] There is food. I’m not referring to a cup of coffee or a scone.  If there is a food, get it distributed and get it out of the room.  Whenever I go to a meeting where there is some kind of food tray, there are always a few attendees who will graze.  They’re thinking more about the food than they are about the meeting.

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Meetings: Get To The Point

Upon a brief review of my site analytics, I noticed something striking. For the month of February, almost nine percent (9%) of my page views are for one thing:  Free Meeting Minutes Template

Back in March 2009, I wrote a post about helpful tips for running a meeting.  With it was a free copy of my meeting minutes template.  So, I think it’s time for a brief refresher with a few updates.

Free Meeting Minutes Template Trend Data

When Hosting a Meeting:

[1] Write out the purpose of the meeting with actionable events in mind.
e.g. “Provide an updated status, identifying risks and opportunities, and identify new action items.”

[2] Identify your attendee list but only keep those you can map to the actionable events listed in step 1.  There is a difference between an attendee list and a communications distribution list.

[3] Create an agenda.  Never schedule a meeting without a written agenda.
A meeting without an agenda is inefficient and a waste of time.

[4] Identify who will run the meeting and who will take notes.
It should not be the same person.  Both people should know their roles before the meeting begins.

[5] Ensure discussion points align to the agenda.
If the conversation drifts off topic, recommend taking the discussion to another forum.

[6] End the meeting by having the note taker read back discussion points and the action items.
Make sure there is a consensus before the meeting ends.

[7] Send out the meeting minutes within one to two days.
Consult your distribution list to ensure all necessary people get a copy.

As a disclaimer, I hate meetings.  Many are unnecessary.  But, when meetings are necessary, get them done as quickly as possible.  Get in, get to the point, get out, get back to work.

Bonus Recommendations:

[1] Start on time.
If you don’t start on time, you can’t finish on time.

[2] Do not schedule your meeting to end at the top or bottom of the hour.
I’m a fan of the 22 minute meeting.  Have meetings end a little early.  Some people need to get to other meeting and this will help prevent them from being late.


Conflict in Value Perception

Deployment StartThis weekend I witnessed a true conflict in value perception.  We’re not talking values like:

– We treat others with respect
– We are humble

Rather, it’s about what the Customer (Product Owner), the Vendor (Core Team), and the I (Facilitator) believe has value.  I see direct value, like actual delivery of product, and indirect value, like mitigating risk by facilitating communications.

We started a deployment cycle that is going to take some time.  The team activities are clearly defined and level-of-effort have been estimated.  Dates in which potential risks could arise have been identified.  This is all good.  Until an activity begins, we won’t be certain if a risk will be fully realized.  This is why I’m a really big proponent of daily communications.  Every morning, we have a 15 minute (status) meeting.  (The culture demands that we call it a status meeting so I’m good with it.)  The extended team is distributed (3 locations) so this is a little challenging.

Though I stressed to everyone the importance of daily communications (at a minimum), this weekend I was a little shocked at what happened.  Deployment activities were taking place over the weekend.  There was a trigger point for a risk that had been identified.  During the Friday status meeting, the Customer informed the team that they would not be on the status call.  Though I had agreed to be on the status call, this was a bit of a paradox.  I am a facilitator.  Per the contract, I can not act on behalf of the customer.  IF the team ran into a roadblock over the weekend, the customer would not know until Monday morning.  We could potentially be delayed by two days until the customer could provide feedback and direction.

So, what happened over the weekend?  The team did indeed run into a roadblock.  But, they were empowered enough to get the work done.  Because risks had been previously identified, a mitigation strategy was in place.  The team was able to bring in team members, over the weekend, without having to consult with the customer.

I still believe if the deployment is going to be a success, all parties must be fully committed.  We’re all in this together.  I’ll never ask a member of my team to do something that I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself.

Something David Bland said at the APLN DC meeting really resonated with me this weekend.  He said,

When dealing with distributed teams, keep the feedback loops tight.

David could not have been more right. We dodged a bullet this time around. Empowering the team allowed us to do this. But, the customer took an unnecessary risk, by intentionally lengthening the feedback loop from 24 to 72 hours.

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