When not to schedule meetings

There’s one thing about pointless meetings that may flip a gaggle of clever, type, charismatic individuals into one collective brainless, imply, boring monster.

To be clear: I don’t suppose all meetings are ineffective. I simply suppose some individuals strive to use meetings to accomplish issues they don’t work for. I really feel the identical approach about monster vans: nice for leisure, horrible for the standard commuter. It’s not that monster vans are unhealthy, per se; it’s simply that there are higher instruments for the job. Meetings are the identical approach—there are different issues you possibly can do instead.

Time is effective, and an unproductive assembly wastes a number of individuals’s time concurrently. That’s why, at Zapier, we strive to hold meetings to a minimal. Listed here are some kinds of meetings we have a tendency to keep away from.

Every day standups or standing updates

Would you like to rapidly let individuals know what you’re engaged on or rapidly discover out what everybody in your group is up to? I extremely suggest not having a gathering.

So does my colleague Scott Williams, engineering supervisor at Zapier. He wrote about replacing daily standups with a bot. It sounds bizarre, however it’s fairly simple: the bot asks all of the questions that used to come up throughout standups, then compiles them right into a report.

The bot posts every part in a public channel, permitting everybody to sustain with what everybody else is engaged on. It’s much more environment friendly than a gathering, particularly in case your group lives across time zones.

You don’t have to construct a bot—you can use a day by day electronic mail thread and even only a fast put up in your group chat app saying what you’re up to. That’s what my group of writers and editors does. We use emoji to characterize our present psychological state. That is optionally available however extremely advisable. It’s fast, and it retains everybody knowledgeable. Individuals can comply with up in a thread if they’ve questions, or they will go on with their day.

Something with out an agenda

Cortney Hickey, an govt assistant at Zapier, was fast to inform me that meetings with out an agenda, or the place individuals can’t stick to an agenda, merely shouldn’t occur.

Have you learnt what a gathering will cowl and what individuals will resolve, be taught, or achieve whereas attending? In that case, write that down and share it with everybody. If not, don’t have a gathering.

Meetings needs to be an exception, not the rule. For those who can’t clarify why you’re having a gathering, you shouldn’t have one. Agendas are your probability to do this. You may automate the agenda-making course of with Zapier: do issues like mechanically making a Google Doc agenda everytime you schedule a gathering in Google Calendar.

And if you happen to end every part on the agenda?

“For those who can resolve one thing rapidly in a gathering, you need to not hold the assembly going,” Hickey advised me, “even when you have extra time.”

Something with too many individuals

Meetings don’t scale properly. 5 individuals can have a productive dialog; 300 individuals can not. The place’s the road?

Jeff Bezos, whose identify you would possibly acknowledge, makes use of a two-pizza rule to resolve. He gained’t attend a gathering until two pizzas may feed the entire group. The precise variety of individuals this permits for will depend on what pizza you order (and what number of slices you possibly can eat), however the fundamental thought is that you simply most likely shouldn’t have greater than eight individuals attending any given assembly.

You don’t have to agree with this rule, particularly, however you need to take into consideration the place the road is on your group. Recall meetings you’ve attended with a number of individuals. Did everybody take part? Was the dialog clean and productive? If not, think about chopping again on the variety of individuals you invite to your subsequent assembly. You would possibly get extra performed.

Brainstorming from scratch

Meetings will be nice for constructing on concepts however not the best for pondering of them from scratch. Hannah Herman, a copywriter at Zapier, advised me individuals ought to come to brainstorming periods ready:

“I like working group-style meetings the place we get to bounce concepts round, however it actually helps when everybody brings one to three concepts or pitches. In any other case, it typically turns into people sitting in awkward silence, all making an attempt to suppose or be artistic.”

That is related to the agenda level—meetings go higher with preparation.

Make common meetings much less frequent

Generally meetings grow to be a routine, and nobody thinks by means of whether or not they want to occur. You will discover out whether or not they’re nonetheless essential by dropping them and seeing what occurs.

Michelle Chu, an engineer at Zapier, advised me her group just lately switched from assembly each week to assembly each different week:

“I don’t discover the dearth of a gathering on the skip weeks and nonetheless really feel like I get sufficient face-time and information from the group. I believe a weekly cadence is simple to default to, however maybe we should always extra typically ask ourselves if that’s essential.”

It labored for her group, and it would work for yours. Attempt it out.

Meetings aren’t unhealthy, and there are methods you may make them higher. However they’re simple to overuse—and that’s not free. A 15-minute assembly with 10 individuals is two-and-a-half hours of general time. What may your group do with that point? Take into consideration that earlier than scheduling a gathering, and think about doing issues asynchronously as an alternative.


This article initially appeared on Zapier’s blog and is reprinted with permission.