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Effective Agile Meetings

by Vikas Hazrati on Nov 09, 2010 |

Meetings are expensive. An all-day team meeting costs thousands of dollars, if we calculate the cost of all the people involved along with overheads. Hence, it is pragmatic to do a fair amount of preparation for the meeting to ensure that the Agile meetings are as effective as possible.

Alex quoted Collaboration Explained, by Jean Tabaka when he mentioned that one should plan on two days of planning for every day of effective meeting. According to Alex a few tips to be kept in mind are,

  • Stay focused
  • Know the goal
  • Do some advance preparation
  • Watch out for too much detail

Similarly, Dmitri Zimine suggested a simple recipe for effective meetings. His recommendations include,

  • Own a meeting – Come prepared and feel responsible for the success of the meeting
  • Publish Agenda, Define the goal, and expected outcome
  • Consider time-boxingtime box the meeting to 30 minutes, shorter meetings are more effective.
  • Physical participation - Make everyone physically participate - write on a white board, take notes, walk, move!
  • Close the meeting explicitly.- recap the goal, outline results, next actions, assignments.

Mark Needham stressed on the importance of time check. According to Mark, time check helps in keeping the meeting more focused and also leads to creativity. Mark also suggested the use of a parking lot for smooth functioning of a meeting.

This would typically just be a section of the white-board used to 'park' discussions about topics which we can get to later but aren't part of the purpose of the meeting.
I haven't seen this used that often but it seems like a useful technique because it still acknowledges that someone has a valid point, just that it's not for discussion at the moment.

Toni mentioned that the meetings that have worked for him have been the ones where he managed to get rid of a meeting and just have a discussion after the stand up with the necessary people. According to Toni, most meetings end up wasting a lot of time,

In fact most of the meetings lasts 30 minutes to an hour, the decisions (if you are lucky, if it happens) are usually taken in 5 minutes or so.

Responding to Mark, Venkatesh Sampath suggested that

I really hate meetings, but only those, which are unfocused and unproductive. Sometimes, more Dev Huddles might suffice, which worked out really well in atleast cutting short the meeting durations.

Venkatesh also quoted Dan North and his tool called Six Thinking Hats which could be put in use to conduct effective trainings.

Outformations shared extensive details about the Agile meeting process and best practices. They suggested that meetings like sprints require skills and practice. One should expect the team to get better with experience.

Though meetings are expensive, they are necessary too. The key lies in conducting them effectively to make the best use of available resources and foster healthy communication. As Dmitri suggested from an extreme angle

The final bullet:
* Foster communication beyond formal meetings. Remember that "Meetings are a penalty for the lack of effective communication."

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Six Thinking Hats by Chris Matts

I think Edward De Bono will be interested to hear that Dan North invented the Six Thinking Hats. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats

Facilitated Workshops (vs. Meetings) by Ellen Gottesdiener

I like to distinguish "meetings" from "workshops" (or "facilitated workshops" or “collaborative workshops”). I suggest avoiding the term "meeting" -- which you rightly point out is the source of so much waste and ill-will.

Workshops are structured events in which a carefully selected group of stakeholders work together to elicit, explore, co-create, clarify and reach closure on predefined deliverables or work products. The group agrees prior to beginning its work, on its outcomes (both tangible and intangible, e.g. decisions). They are led by a neutral facilitator and use interactive techniques that engage them toward shared understanding and closure.

Agile planning is best done in facilitated workshops (see ebgconsulting.com/Pubs/Articles/Agile%20Require... for discussion of three planning sessions, or workshops).

Using the facilitation and collaboration practices that Jean wrote about in her book and i wrote about in my book (see: ebgconsulting.com/Pubs/Articles/Agile%20Require...) is helps to not only delivers outcomes quickly and efficiently, but also builds the community.

Oh, and let's remember we don't have to be the designated facilitated to apply facilitation practices -- try using guerrilla facilitation ;-) www.stickyminds.com/sitewide.asp?Function=WEEKL...

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