📅 Real-time sometimes; asynchronous most of the time.
Collaboration over Meetings
We rarely have in-person team or all-hands meetings. Instead, we prefer focused collaboration between small groups, usually just two or three people.
Studies are piling up showing that adding more team members may actually hinder team productivity overall. For example, researchers (Staats, Milkman, and Fox) conducted a study in which teams of two and teams of four were tasked with building a Lego structure. The two-person team completed the Lego structure in 36 percent less time, even though the four-person team was almost twice as optimistic about outperforming the smaller team.
Meetings should be a last resort
Meetings should be a last resort; not the first option.
People’s time is highly valuable so all meetings should be purposeful and well-executed. Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one-hour meeting, it’s a five-hour meeting. Be mindful of the tradeoffs.
Meetings cater to extroverts. Some people fail to speak up in meetings for a variety of reasons. They might not enjoy being in the spotlight, or they are put off by those who frequently interrupt or have a particularly aggressive or confrontational style of debate. It’s the organizer’s role to mediate and so that everyone a voice; otherwise, what’s the point of having all these people at the table. You could have just written up an announcement instead.
Extroverts are more likely to say what they think, and talk through their thought processes, while introverts take in the information and sort through it in their own heads. Meetings will see more extroverts getting to contribute than introverts. The introverts in the room often go unnoticed; even if they have a game-changing idea, it may never get shared.
How to run a meeting, if you really must
- Do you really need a meeting? If not, don’t schedule one and just go talk to the person. It’s generally easier, faster and more efficient.
- Meetings should be 15 minutes by default. If you need longer, take longer, but most meetings don’t need much longer than that. People will find ways to fill whatever amount of time the meeting was scheduled for, so don’t schedule more time than you need. If you get scheduled in a longer meeting, why don’t you ask why it needs to be so long?
- No spectators. If you don’t have any reason to be in the meeting, don’t go. We don’t need spectators at meetings. The corollary of this is that if there are spectators in your meeting, ask them why they’re there and to leave if they don’t have any reason to be there.
- Have a purpose, state it upfront. Start with a preread. If your meeting doesn’t have a goal then you should probably revisit tip #1. You should have a goal (except for weekly check-in meetings) and everyone should understand that goal. If you are attending a meeting and you don’t know the goal, ask. If the person who set the meeting doesn’t have an answer, suggest the meeting be moved until there is one. This will help a lot.
- Make tasks, and assign them to people. Meetings start to suck when everyone walks away and it isn’t clear who is doing what. If you set a goal at the beginning, there should be some tasks at the end. Make sure everyone knows who is assigned to those tasks (put them in Asana if applicable). A task isn’t a task if it doesn’t have a person assigned to it.
- Don’t bring computers or phones. This is important enough to mention again. If we want to have as few meetings as possible and make them as short as possible it’s important that everyone is focused on the task at hand. That means not doing other stuff during the meeting. If you catch someone doing something else (including Max or your manager) call them out and ask them not to. If their computer is open and they’re not presenting or creating tasks/taking notes, ask them to close it. If they need to be checking mail or working on something else, they probably shouldn’t be at the meeting.
Everyone is responsible for enforcing the rules. For example, if you’re leaving a meeting without clarity around who is responsible for next steps it should be called out regardless of whether it was your meeting or not.