Does Agile Have Too Many Meetings?
I often hear from customers that using agile significantly increases the amount of time they spend in meetings. I ask them to document the types of meetings they are having, how much time they spend in each of these meetings, and then compare that to time spent meeting in their pre-agile days. Many times it turns out their perception is incorrect.
Because agile favors lots of short meetings, more formalized retrospectives, and customer product reviews, it may seem like more time is spent in meetings, but it actually takes less total time.
However, this doesn’t mean all meetings you attend are useful. You should always be on the lookout for opportunities to remove meeting waste. Beyond working to make the meetings you attend productive, here are a few tips for deciding whether your meetings are necessary.
Understand the types of meetings you attend
Typical meetings include status meetings, sharing information, brainstorming, decision-making meetings, reviews, and team-building meetings. While each has a purpose, some meeting types are more wasteful than others.
Holding a long meeting for any purpose other than sharing information (e.g., all-hands meetings, brown-bags, training) is often wasteful. Lots of people attend with few actually contributing to the discussion. Either better facilitate those kinds of meetings so everyone is heard, or significantly reduce the number of people who attend. Attending a meeting should not be considered a badge of honor you proudly wear as a symbol of your importance!
Keep status meetings and reviews to a minimum
Nothing wastes more time than giving project status, reviewing data, going slide by slide through a presentation to update it, or walking through documents or code as a large team. Each of these activities is important, but consider alternatives to long meetings to accomplish them.
Many teams use daily standups to communicate status and identify blockers. These can be very effective meetings if kept at 10 to 15 minutes and everyone is engaged to help others get their job done efficiently. But if standups become a rote chore where everyone just gives status and there is no interaction, you are mostly wasting this time.
Share periodic information in your standups
Try to share information in your standups as much as possible instead of having separate meetings to do so.
If every week you share data about some aspect of your business, consider discussing that information during your time in the standup instead. Share the information beforehand, ask everyone to look at it and come with any questions, and then spend just a few minutes discussing. This way the conversation during your standup can center around questions, concerns, and suggestions.
Restructure how you review information
We often want others to review the documents, presentations, code, etc., we are creating. Doing this in a large meeting where you walk through the information from top to bottom is often a waste of time.
Instead, use collaboration tools to share your information and allow others to comment collaboratively when they have the time. Review their feedback and update the document to reflect relevant comments. If there are areas that need further discussion or there are competing views, schedule a short meeting with the appropriate people to address those particular issues.