Applying Switch framework to Meetings are not real work - part III

· September 20, 2012

This is the final post in my series on the problem that a lot of people sees meetings as not being real work. I think this has to do with the meetings being bad and badly conducted. So we need to improve on the quality of the meetings to make them more interesting feel worthwhile.

In these blog posts (I and II) I have applied the Switch Framework on how to make meetings better and more interesting to attend.

In the previous two posts we’ve talked about reasoning with the Rider (our logical side) and tried to get the Elephant (our lazy, subconsious part) over to our side. In this post we’re trying to smooth the path that they are walking down to make the change journey even easier to take.

Let’s go!

Tweak the environment

The reasoning under this heading is that if you change the situation, the context we act in the change in the behaviour will follow. For example - if you have a system for queuing up calls in a call center … a lot of calls will be in queue. To get quicker response time, throw the system out and have direct access. A bit brutal example but you get what I’m aiming at.

So what could we do to tweak the environment to make better, more qualitative meetings happen?

For starters if you go to all meetings there’s no wonder that you’re attending a lot of meetings… Not everyone have to go to every meeting. They are called meeting requests for a reason, people!

State, loud and clear, that it’s ok to decline invitations if you have other, more important stuff to do. Push the responsibility out to each individual. “You are responsible for your own time. You own what you do with it each day”.

Attendee creep

| | |:————————————————————————————-:| | | | From KGrays Slice of Life |

A very big problem at one client I was working as was that invitations was resent. This meant that I invited Roger and he thought that maybe Mattias should hear about this too. And Mattias in turn thought that this could probably be good if we shared with everyone doing .NET development.

So when the actual meeting took place I was not met by Roger but rather by 25 devs. Totally different meeting, and given an average hourly rate of say 1000 SEK that meeting now costed 26 000 SEK / h. Not my intention.

A brute force, tweak the environment way of handling this is to sure that you don’t allow resending of invitations. If more people should be added you could always go back to the sender and check with her. This gives better control of the attendee creep and the focus of the meeting.

This can probably be enforced technically if you want too.

Build habits

A habit is something we do without thinking, it doesn’t take any effort from our Rider. It just happens this way. A great example of this is an agile team that stop in their tracks and fix a broken build as the build agent informs them too.

Checklists are also good for this and I’ve talked about them already in this series, but it could be as simple as posting a checklist in each meeting. Or putting an timer in each room that can be winded up to the right amount of time for the meeting, helping us to keep our time box.

Another great tip here is to stand up for short meetings. Yes - I said; stand up for the stand-up. There’s a reason to do so. We don’t want it long. Standing up will help it to be so. Still I see a lot of teams sitting down for their standup … and the meetings starts to linger of course.

| | |:———————————————————————————————-:| | | | From JavaLobby |

Start tracking the quality of each meeting with a simple ROTI (Return On Time Invested) the way out of the room. Supply templates for doing so and post them on the doors for example. This will have a two-folded effect;

  1. You, as an organiser, will start to see trends and get some data to improve upon. If you collect them and analyze them you can start to see company trends
  2. Everybody knows that we will do a ROTI of the meeting quality after each meeting. This will put a little pressure on us to do a good meeting. Nothing to threaten people with but just making sure that we think.

Try to find simple stuff that helps us getting into the motion of just doing right. I once heard Microsoft use the phrase “increase the likelihood of us falling into the pit of success”. Do that!

Rally the herd

| | |:—————————————————————————————————————:| | | | From Wikipedia |

Now we probably got a few people with us on the train. Now we want the spread the word - start an epidemic about doing great meetings.

Here you want to create forums and meeting places to share tips and tools for conducting great meetings. Start book circles or other things for interested people. Focus on the people that is driving this on - the other will follow and there’s no use wasting time on the negative persons in the beginning.

Maybe even record some meetings for inspiration. Or track the number of meetings / months with a ROTI over 3.

This heading touches on the Grow your people-heading in post 2 - we want to create a culture of us being great at meetings. Help this culture to spread.


That ends this mini-series on how help us getting to the bottom with the problem about people perceiving meetings as not being real work.

I’m sure that you have a lot of ideas that I’ve missed. Please comment and leave them here. I want to improve.

There’s a lot of little things that make the change happen of course. You need to address both the Rider and the Elephant, in different ways too. Maybe not everything should happen at once, but rather gradually be built into the culture at your company.

But you can start. With the people around you - make the change happen! The subtitle of the Switch book is “How to make change when change is hard”. All of the stories in the book are about people with little or no official power that made a big difference in their environment. You could be that person too.

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