Have meetings, only when necessary, mostly one-on-one.
Not all meetings are bad, many are unnecessary, that doesn't mean you shouldn't communicate.
January 3, 2021
7 Minutes To Read
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Should one choose to write out their thoughts, they may find it is a perfect manner with which to hone their mind.
January 2, 2021
4 minutes to read
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Have meetings, only when necessary, mostly one-on-one.

I have an internal bias towards most meetings, one perhaps that isn't all that original but it goes something like this.

Email > Slack > Phone Call > Text Message > Written Letter > Morse Code > Smoke Signal > Guttural Screaming > "Meeting".

Even in this all to frequentness and easy era of zoom calls and google meets I still find many if not most meetings that I'm called into to be not exactly pointless but lets say misguided and most certainly a pseudo-criminal waste of time. This has been something i've been passionate about for a few years and made particularly poignant after transferring over from start-up land to more traditional commercial business. Thats not to say that all meetings are bad, !true, some are absolutely necessary, enjoyable and useful (Good Scums, Retrospectives, Big Decisions) but many meetings suffer from a lack of structure or a specific emphasis that lead them into the land of arbitrary updates and non-specific conversation that aren't all that productive and like the good saying goes: "Could be handled over an email". So like any new year i've decided to set a goal, more of a personal optimization really, which goes something like this:

Have meetings, only when necessary, mostly one-on-one.

There are a lot of perspectives about meetings. These are some of the results from a quick internet search: 

Obviously one could go on but I think it's a fair assessment to say there seems to be in some organizations cultural issues with meetings. Reading through these articles I was able to abstract little tidbits of advice about meetings, how to hold them, when to have them, how to structure them, what to do once you're in them, etc. but the resounding undertone of most was "There are a lot of bad meetings out there, here's what you can do to try fix them, good luck". So instead of regurgitating the various types of meeting participants (Managers vs Makers, Essential Paul Graham) or to write hyperbole on the super stars of techs most prominent practices (Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, Etc.). I'll simply stick with what I intend to adopt for this new year.

Have Meetings

Working with people is unavoidable, you need to do it to do virtually any job in any workplace, they cant be absolutely avoided nor should they. In product management they are a very real functional requirement of the role, work with the teams to get the product out the door and work with the customers to make it what they want. In development "meetings" are a different thing all together often times they're more like active collaborations or jazzing through a problem they're personal, in-depth, and require attention to numerous details.

Regardless of what function you play in any organization you need to have meetings. Personally I recommend having a set agenda for manager style meetings with specific outcomes (decisions) that you hold the group to. If you don't need to be in a meeting don't be afraid to say it and if you're asked to explain yourself, explain yourself. If you find a meeting has reached a plateau or natural end, don't hesitate to wrap it up, your time and everyone else's is more valuable than bitcoin. If you want to have a meeting about blue sky opportunities, growth, collaborations go for a walk or get lunch (with masks if you're comfortable) those moments are special and deserve the relaxed enhancement of food and activity. Finally if you find yourself leading a meeting hold yourself directly and personally responsible for the quality and outcomes of those meetings even if it's with the CEO, it is 100% your job to make the meeting work.

Only When Necessary

We live in the golden era of personal communication, use it.

If you find a meeting that is regularly scheduled is ineffective or pointless move it to a weekly update over email. If you have someone asking for a meeting, quite literally ask them if they can write it out or handle the conversation of slack, iMessage, chat. Very many a meeting can more effectively be handled over written word and should be.

Typed english is far less ambiguous and requires far more thought than top-of-mind spoken word.

Mostly One-on-One

Information exchange is tricky. Humans can transmit huge amounts of information through nuance, tone, body language, word, etc. In large groups much of that nuance gets turned from signal into noise. If you're going to have a meeting, try to have a meeting directly with one person at a time. Its where information exchange is at it's highest and flows the best.

If you're meeting in a group (Stand-Ups, Scrums, Whatever) contribute where you need to contribute, be there if necessary, and focus to the best of your ability on making that time as valuable as possible. If you find yourself in one of these "pointless" group meetings do a quick calculation on the dollar cost of this time and ask yourself what can be done to fix it or make it better.

At the end of the day, theres no specific solution for the all the potential meetings problems. Like everything, each group has unique situations that lead to how these interactions are handled. Whatever you end up doing, just remember your time is valuable and so is everyone else's, treat it like such.

Also shout out to Brandon Smith for his recent post on coding, it gave me the idea for this blog.