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Meetingism – Addiction to Meetings


Do you or your organisation suffer from meetingism? Like alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol, meetingism is an addiction to meetings. Not sure? Take a look at your calendar. Does it look like you are winning a game of tetris? Do you book time in your calendar as busy, just to get some work done without being invited to a meeting. If more of your work day is spent in meetings than out of meetings, you are likely a sufferer.

People often complain that Scrum prescribes a lot of meetings. If you actually follow the recommended meeting lengths it works out to only 15% of your time. According to Scrum these are really the only meetings you need. Yet often we see teams with many more meetings than this.

What can you do?

  1. Read our blog post on 10 tips to make meetings effective.
  2. Make sure each meeting has an agenda and everyone knows what it is. Timebox each section. If the timebox is up move on, if there is nothing to say on a particular point, move on. Meetings don’t need to take an hour just because that is what is scheduled.
  3. Look at the purpose of each meeting, and your role in it. Is it to give information, get information, or discuss a topic and come up with a decision. If it is none of these, what is the purpose, try as I might the only other reason I could come up with for a meeting is relationship building which I will deal with separately. Maybe you don’t need the meeting.
  4. If the meeting is for you to share information, are you sharing that information in multiple forums? I know many product owners who meet separately with stakeholders to share with them exactly what gets shared in the sprint review.
  5. If the meeting is to get information, are you getting information in the most effective way? Is the source of that information in the meeting, or is it just being cascaded down through a waterfall of meetings? Go to the source. And if the information is relevant to work you are doing, isn’t that just part of grooming? If it’s not relevant to the work you are doing, why do you need the information?
  6. Look at the frequency of the meeting. Do you need to have it every week? Does enough happen in a week to make it worthwhile? What would happen if you made it every two weeks instead. Try it for a month and decide if there was really a need for the weekly cadence. Maybe you don’t need a regular meeting at all. Maybe you can just call a meeting when it’s needed to decide on something.
  7. Think about what happens when you are sick. What meetings matter when you are out of the office for a week in bed? Which ones do you send a delegate to, which ones do you send info to via someone else, which ones do you just blow off and feel lucky that you could miss it because you are sick. You don’t need that meeting.
  8. Now on to relationship building. I know many people who create meetings to improve relationships between 2 people or 2 departments. We recommend managers and ScrumMaster have regular one-on-one meetings with team members just for that. If this is the real purpose of the meeting, then focus on that, and get agreement from both sides that it is worth the time to work on the relationship. Don’t expect relationships to improve between 2 departments just because you now have a weekly status meeting to share information the other department doesn’t care about. Also think about ways to improve the relationship without a meeting. One idea is to drop by their department at lunch time and eat your lunch with them.
  9. Is the meeting to communicate a message? If so, is there a better way to do this? A paragraph, a diagram – some easier way to consume information.

Feeling Brave?

If those ideas don’t do it for you, here’s my radical idea. Delete every single meeting in your calendar. That’s right. Every single one. Even your daily standups. Now before you create it again, make sure you understand what the purpose is, why you are attending, what the agenda is, what the timebox and cadence need to be. Also make sure it can’t just be combined with another meeting and be clear on what you will do if you are off sick.