Before any meaningful and coordinated work happens involving more than 1 person, at least one meeting takes place. Meetings, then, continue to happen while the people involved are working on the project. And, they also take place after the work is completed. Basically, meetings are everywhere and there’s no way to escape them! You can be the best of the best, the rock-star of your industry, but you’ll still have to take part in meetings.

But what are meetings for? Well, to gather knowledge, spread knowledge, and make decisions. And, Scrum’s daily standup can achieve all three purposes: the facilitator understands progress and impediments, the scrum team is spreading knowledge on their current work, and some impediments could be unlocked in the group by a quick decision. The hard truth is that meetings are quite helpful, even though they can be tiring for the participants. When executed correctly, the Scrum methodology speeds up project-related processes that help the team work smoother. 

“But, if managers were good, shouldn’t there be less meetings?” 

Even thought this question pops up constantly, it’s important to note that it doesn’t really work like that. Consider the following situation: you’re on a group trip with several people. Because everybody has different preferences, interests, and passions, all the people in your group have a different idea of what they want to do during the trip. But, all of you want to do the activities together. How can you do that when Mary wants to relax at the beach, Andreea wants to explore all the tourist attractions, and Vlad only cares about taking lots of cute group pictures together. Without someone in your group who steps in to listen to everyone’s needs and discuss with everyone to find a way to compromise so that the trip feels like a success to everyone, your group will not be able to find a solution. Extrapolate this situation and view the manager as the person who makes sure the project (a.k.a. the group trip) is successful.  

Meetings help managers understand what the team further needs to continue performing at its best. It’s when they can address specific situations that need to be handled, get a quick status from everyone in the team, check the vibe to see if there is anything that needs to be changed. Some meetings could be emails, from a team member’s perspective, but it might not feel the same from the manager’s part. To increase a meeting’s productivity, consider adapting the information you share according to the two things a manager looks for: visibility and compression. Let’s discuss both separately. 


Visibility over progress

It’s not about the tasks you’re currently working on, but the progress you’re making that leads to the completion of the project. Instead of “I’m working on these tasks today, hope to finish them before the end of day” consider switching to “I’m few hours away from completing these tasks, which will help us go further in terms of.” It might help the meeting end earlier if the managed understands the impact of your work as soon as possible. 

Visibility over impediments 

Moving slower than expected is common, as impediments can always appear. And they are not a problem, because they can be fixed with the help of others. But, to overcome them, you first must acknowledge them. So, during meetings, while saying that you are not advancing on your tasks, also add the why. Is it because we didn’t estimate the time correctly? Is it a technical issue that needs intervention from someone else? Or is it something else? Managers are there to provide help when needed, but they need to be first aware of what you need in order to overcome the situation.

Visibility over performance

Nobody moves at the same pace while working on a task. While some meet the expected time to finish a task, others can move faster, and others slower. And it’s perfectly normal and okay. But this has to be clear to the manager, as it will be easier for him to plan in the future. Knowing your pace will also help your teammates get in a better sync with you. 

Compression (Synthesis)

Be brief. 

You’ve got all the details, you know the raw code, the pipeline, the dependencies, the tech debt you discovered or introduced, the 17 email long chain on the investigation you’re conducting just to figure out one thing plus the frustrations with some DevOps config that’s just not working. But you can tell me, the manager, in just one straight forward phrase the status of the situation.  Then, you can briefly add if it’s possible for you to own all the impediments and dependencies or if the problem needs more people. Also, if you capture all these in a visual form, you’ve got my ♥ reaction instantly. 

Be accurate.

Highlight the risks, delays, dependencies and down right the tool failures that are blocking you. I would be very pleased if you told me, “all’s good, BAU start to bottom, will deliver 5 days sooner than expected”, but only IF that is indeed the case. If not, do take your time to pass on a non-filtered bird-eye view of your sprint.

Be timely. 

Yes, we have the weekly status meeting. But if things go wrong, or appear to not go well in the future, don’t wait for ceremonies. Send that chat message, write that email, set up that meeting and make it known, after you did your homework on causes, consequences and (lack of) mitigations.

Final thoughts

It’s okay if it’s not always possible to have just one straight forward phrase that expresses everything you want to share in the meeting in regards to your status. It’s easier to send in an email with the status, indeed. But that is not helpful to the team or the manager. Short and quick meetings, where everyone is brief, accurate, timely, and shares their ideas while focusing on visibility, are the key.

Article edited by Ruxandra Mazilu 

Original article is created by Vasile Tomoiaga. You can find it here.