The Mihir Chronicles

Disciplined Meetings

October 03, 2023

In a remote world, what is the most effective medium to get together for people?

If you guessed–meetings—that is correct!

Meetings are a core part of managerial work. And if you are an owner of a slice of work (for me, it is products and features), then your life depends on it.

There are asynchronous tools available such as chat and email, but human nature needs context and interaction through meaningful discussions.

But you would ask yourself aren't meetings toxic? Yes, they can be toxic if not managed efficiently. Most meetings are toxic because of lack of discipline and this is the sign of malorganization.

Before we answer the effectiveness of meetings, let's visit why we get together at work.

If you are a manager—your job is to gather information, relay information or make a decision as a team. And everyone on the team is being paid to attend the meeting to make progress on these items. Regard attendance as showing up for work.

Now we know why we meet, let's investigate how to run meetings?

Consider yourself a chairperson of a meeting. You are responsible for the effectiveness of every meeting. If they are not running smoothly, the chairperson is to be blamed, not the attendees or subordinates.

Rules on how to run productive meetings:

  1. Call meeting if you know what you want to accomplish and whether it requires a meeting. If you know what you want to accomplish, but if it can be done via email or a chat, then a meeting is not justified.
  2. As an attendee it is your responsibility to ask whether a meeting or your attendance is justified.
  3. As a chairperson, you must identify who should attend and convince people on why they should come. You need to follow up with everyone on importance of their attendance.
  4. Keep your attendee list short. Decision-making is not a spectator sport.
  5. Ensure attendees are not joining the meetings late. It is almost criminal for one person to show up late and waste and everyone else's time. Wasted time is wasted dollar of your organization. It is equivalent to stealing a computer. As a chairperson it is your responsibility to not let someone steal everyone's time.
  6. As a chairperson, send out an agenda a day before that clearly states the purpose of the meeting and the responsibility of each attendee for a desired outcome.
  7. As a chairman, it is your responsibility to be a timekeeper and keep the discussion moving.
  8. Be cautious of tabling items if a decision needs to be reached. It is okay to table items if further insight or people are needed to make a decision. However, it is a responsibility of a decision maker to make decisions if there are varying opinions on how to get something done. Coming together and not making any decision despite all information being available is as costly.
  9. Once the meeting is over, the chairperson is responsible to send out notes on what was discussed and the outcomes for each one of the agenda items. Ensure each outcome is timestamped and accessible for everyone on the team, so the team can go back and visit. This should be done within a reasonable time.

You might consider this chairperson a drill sergeant for micromanaging, but it depends on your point-of-view.

If you are disciplined about running meetings, then you are a responsible player on the team for not wasting anyone's time.