If you’ve known me for any length of time or followed me on twitter, then you probably know that generally I cannot stand meetings. Judging by the fact that there is an entire phrase, complete with stickers, coffee cups, shirts and ribbons, I’m not the only one. There’s a few things I would like to talk about for management so you’re not perpetually annoying your technical staff.
Have an Agenda
First, every meeting should have an agenda. Don’t send me a blank meeting with no context. The point of having an agenda is to keep the meeting on track. To provide context to the recipients so they can prepare for what’s going to be discussed. And the agenda should be your guideline to how long the meeting should last.
Meetings without an agenda only serve to cause anxiety in a certain subset of your employees. “Am I getting fired” “did I do something wrong?” etc. I once received a meeting from my new boss, on my day off with no context and someone from HR was invited. Dead giveaway I was getting fired. And I was.
Lets talk about standups. A “standup” in Agile, Scrum or Kanban, is actually supposed to be an actual meeting where everyone is standing up, on foot. Therefore the meeting doesn’t take long. Because no one wants to “stand up” for an hour and talk at work. If you’re doing standup and its scheduled for 30 minutes or an hour, you are absolutely doing it wrong. Stand up should be 15 minutes, everyone says what their working on, any roadblocks and move on.
Double Booking, Back to Back and too Many Meetings
I can’t tell you how annoying and somewhat disrespectful it is to double book people. You can see their calendar and you decide yea my meeting needs to go at the same time as this other meeting. Bear in mind I’m talking about technical people here, not management. Managers sit in meetings all day, and apparently that’s just normal. When you double book your employees, first your forcing them to make a decision on which meeting is more important. And if your meeting has no agenda, I won’t be picking yours. Second when you back to back meetings, you’re not giving them a break to decompress, use the restroom etc. Schedule a 30 minute meeting for 25 minutes and an hour meeting to 50 minutes.
This is a sample of my calendar from earlier this year. Client and employer names redacted to protect the guilty. This was a pretty normal week. Yet I also expected to bill 40 hours or actual technical work to clients in addition to attending all these meetings. We billed clients for these meetings, most of which were internal only. So we would have 3-6 consultants plus a project manager and delivery manager all billing to clients. So a 30 minute meeting all of a sudden is billed hours worth of time because there’s so many people on it. This is unethical, in my opinion. The only time I think you should be billing a client for a meeting is if the client is on the actual meeting.
Pet peeve of mine, please try not to schedule meeting during lunch time. People need to eat to be productive. Its incredibly frustrating to not have even lunch time to yourself, or worse inviting people to a “lunch meeting” and no lunch is provided. I can’t tell you how many coworkers I have worked with that would skip lunch, and then by about 2 O clock they’re complaining that their head hurts or are jittery or whatever.
Oh and since I don’t have anywhere else to put this, please for Clippy’s sake stop saying “I’ll give you X amount of minutes of your day back” when a meeting ends early. Its annoying, stupid and generally isn’t accurate. Oh wow, I have 5 minutes of my day back, let me go get all this technical work done before my next meeting in 35 meetings.
Another issue that comes up with too many meetings. Especially for programmers or Cloud Infrastructure, DevOps type people that write PowerShell, and ARM templates, is context switching. I know for myself, it takes me a while to get into a nice groove when I’m writing PowerShell, ARM templates or some other deep thought task. I need large blocks of time to problem solve, getting my day broken up by a 30 minute meeting here and an hour meeting there, makes it really difficult to get good work done.
Pre Meeting Meeting
If you need a pre meeting meeting you’re doing something wrong, enough said.
Maybe this should be an Email
Before sending out a meeting, ask yourself: can the questions I want answers to be answered via email or chat? Do I really need to invite this many people? Does this really need to be a daily/weekly meeting? Can I view a project board to get the updates I need every week?
Yes some meetings are important and necessary, but please try not to inundate your employees with meetings.