How can we better optimize team meetings?

May 19, 2014
How to make recurring meetings more productive

What is the secret sauce that makes a good meeting? Generally speaking, I try to make sure every meeting I lead has these three components:

  • Make sure all key stakeholders are present. Don’t fall into the trap of inviting everyone in hopes of covering your bases. Select attendees strategically but err on the side of including someone if you’re on the fence.
  • Define the meeting purpose. Identify in advance and communicate at the beginning of the meeting the reason everyone is there.
  • End with action items. Most meetings have takeaways. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for what and what the next steps are before leaving the room.

We have a problem

For meetings with clients it’s easy to achieve these goals and lead really successful interactions. Since we have such productive client meetings then our weekly Digett team meeting is probably the best meeting ever, right?! Sigh. I think we can improve.

What’s great and what I want to change

The whole Digett team meets over lunch once a week, usually on Mondays. We fulfill the requirement for all stakeholders to be present because everyone in the company attends.

I struggle, however, with clearly defining the purpose of the weekly team meeting. We have too many purposes. If we’re doing too many things, are we watering down the potential of team meetings?

Things we accomplish at our team meetings:

  • Team Building
    • We dedicate the first part of the meeting to socialization, catching up on everyone’s weekend adventures and the latest internet cat memes. It helps build culture and camaraderie.
  • Knowledge Sharing
    • Discovered a cool new service or tool that helps you do your job? Share it. Attended a great conference or webinar? Tell the team about what you learned. Keeps us all sharp and current on trends.
  • Status Updates
    • We go over our active projects and the sales pipeline. Helps give everyone an overview of company activities.
  • Brainstorming/Problem-Solving
    • Has a project or team encountered a challenge? Let’s harness the cumulative brain-power of the team and come up with our best, most creative solutions.

Our meetings definitely have value, but are we getting the most value possible? You know the saying “a jack of all trades is a master of none”? I think we’re having a jack-of-all-trades kind of meeting. We’re trying to accomplish too much.

How can we better optimize team meetings?

Over the next few meetings, we’re going to try to make some changes to enhance the efficiency of team meetings.

A few things we may try:

  • Let’s get team input. Let the team help identify what has the most value and ditch what isn’t critical. What should we keep doing, stop or change?
  • Keep project status updates at the department, rather than team level.
  • Focus on one problem or topic, determined in advance. If we narrow our focus, we’ll have time to deep-dive, really harnessing team brainpower.
  • If something new comes up during team meeting, we’ll decide if now is the appropriate time to discuss or if there are better, smaller and targeted, venues for it. If it's worthy of Team Meeting, we'll have an Action Item for next week.

One of Digett’s Core Values is to strive for continuous improvement. It feels natural to evolve our approach to team meetings and we’ll continue to evolve our approach to make the most of team time.

This certainly isn’t an issue unique to Digett. Have you or your team found a way to take your team meetings to the next level?