How To Organize A Productive Meeting
Hey there. This is the first note about communication in this blog. Lately, I found myself interested in this topic because the more I work with different people on various projects, the more I realize that software development is mostly about clear communication, not about clean code (whatever that is). You should be able to express yourself well in order to find the truth about what you're going to build and how.
This post is about organizing productive meetings that help teams to progress with their project. Most people hate meetings and find them counter-productive, long and boring. I think it happens because lots of meetings are planned poorly. Recently I had a luck of preparing a meeting that went well (I hope). Here is a recap of what I did to make it succeed.
Have A Goal
It may sound obvious, but it is actually difficult to set the right goal. Usually, people gather to "discuss something" and it seems to be a goal, but in reality, it isn't. A goal is what you'd like to achieve by the end of a meeting. If you'd like to discuss a new feature, then most likely your goal is to come up with a clear and detailed specification of this feature. In order to avoid long meetings, split your main goal into smaller items and discuss them separately.
Have A Plan
Having a goal is not enough by itself if you don't know how to achieve it. That's why a meeting needs a plan. Think about questions you need to answer and decisions you need to agree on, put them into a list, prioritize, and you've got a plan. Don't forget to send it to all other attendees so that they have time to review it and prepare for the meeting.
Have A Time-Constrained Format
Limiting the time spent on conversations is very important for a productive meeting; otherwise, you risk talking about only one thing for the whole meeting and not achieving anything in the end. Long discussions indicate that no side has really strong arguments yet. In this case, it makes sense to stop arguing, admit that the question stays open and move on with the meeting. There will be time to debate later, but not just now.
Take Notes And Write A Summary
People tend to forget things; that's why it's always better to write them down. You don't need to record every word though, only the main answers, arguments and decisions. After the meeting, I'd suggest you go through the notes once again, find the main points, sum them up in the follow-up and send it to all attendees. This way you'll keep everybody informed and make sure that you all are on the same page.
Manage Off-Topic Conversations
Sometimes during a meeting, someone might come up with an important point that is not directly related to the main subject but nevertheless needs a discussion. In this situation, you can thank the speaker and suggest to write this item in the meeting notes and talk about it in the next meeting. This way you won't miss anything important while still stay focused on the main agenda.
Enjoy your meetings!