Effective Meetings Mean More Than Discussing

Many companies have been trying to reduce the overhead of meetings, to no avail. I have a really simple idea. Never set up or attend a meeting where the goal is to “DISCUSS” things. Here’s some examples of meeting invites I’ve had over the years:

  • Discuss technology direction
  • Discuss production outage
  • Discuss ORM
  • Discuss contract

Of course these meetings never have agendas. And what work is actually accomplished? None! A friend of mine compared these kinds of meetings to bar conversations. You know those; lots of fun dreaming about “what ifs” and coming up with a plan on how to “make it big”. And what happens after those conversations? Nothing. It’s as if they never happened.

Let’s rewrite those meeting invites to be a bit more productive.

  • Decide whether to build the application using .NET or Java
  • Create an action plan that minimizes production outages and define a clear escalation path in the case that they do occur
  • Decide whether to use Hibernate or EJB
  • Decide whether to accept or reject the proposed contract

Notice that the verbs imply finality, “discuss” does not. “Decide”, “create”, “define” means that you will leave the meeting having made progress. You now have a definition of “Done” for the meeting. You will never know when you are “Done” discussing.

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