Regular meetings should be critical for any business and especially remote teams. Meetings are the driving force behind the best companies. They are where the magic happens. We make critical decisions, collaborate on new ideas, think up new strategies, deal with emergencies, solve company problems; the list goes on.
It is crazy that there are people in business who don’t look forward to meetings, or want to have less of them. They find them a waste of time and resources because “meetings don’t get anything done”. The problem is, those people are blaming the entire concept of meetings instead of recognizing that they are having bad ones.
Regular meetings allow us to practice having meetings, so we can run them effectively. They create structure, rhythms and learning loops for organizations.
They are especially critical for remote teams. One of the trade offs when moving a team remote is the lack of social interaction. You lose the water cooler moments or those impromptu chats between colleagues. Issues that can take moments to resolve in an office can take longer because of the asynchronous nature of working remotely. Different types of regular meetings, with the right cadence and duration, are essential to ensure work happens efficiently.
Regardless of whether you work in an office environment or from a desk at home, regular meetings can help any team be more effective in their day to day work. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. The best laid plans…
Robbie Burns is an old bard and poet from Scotland. You have probably sang one of his songs when the bells ring at New Years. In one of his poems (To a mouse) he writes:
“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley (often go awry)”
His point? Whether you are a human, or a mouse, our plans rarely go exactly the way we imagined them. Plans always change when they hit the real world, the best teams know this and adapt to the circumstances at hand.
The best way to do this is by meeting frequently and ensuring the issues that arise are caught and caught early. If we are going off course we want to make sure we correct this early, otherwise the impact will compound and we will have to make a greater adjustment further down the road.
2. What you resists persists
If you never discuss your problems they will always exist. If you resist talking about the issues you need to talk about then they will continue to persist. This means we need to meet regularly and have healthy debates with our team about how we can solve our problems.
A lot of managers and leaders avoid conflict in meetings. They don’t want to upset colleagues or create arguments amongst the team. This might appear like an admirable quality to strive for, but in reality it’s the opposite of what we want in a good meeting. This is usually one of the main reasons that companies have bad ones.
Patrick Lencioni, the famous business author, says that one of the 5 dysfunctions of a team is a “fear of conflict”. At a company conflict is actually a good thing. A team of intelligent people are not alway going to agree. We rarely want consensus; we actually want alignment. But, to get that, we need everyone to share and collaborate. This means they can contribute and buy into the outcome; whatever it may be.
Companies are great because what we can do together is always greater than the sum of our parts. We get great results because of our diversity, so why would we ever want to stifle this?
When we talk about conflict we don’t mean politics and infighting, no it’s the exact opposite. We mean a group of people who share a mutual trust, and common goals, debating their different opinions to solve whatever problem needs attention right now.
Regular scheduled meetings in this type of environment allows us to solve issues before they are allowed to fester and become real problems.
3. Creates Learning Opportunities
If you come from a Scrum team you already have regular meetings as part of your processes and understand how meeting regularly becomes an empirical process. If not, you might not be aware of how regular meetings allow you to iterate your processes and allow your business to increase its performance and productivity over time.
When we meet with a regular cadence it allows us to review our business, our key metrics and performance to identify what works for the company and what doesn’t. We can use these observations to update our processes and policies. We can ensure we don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, or make changes to take better advantage of our strengths. As we evolve, these meetings will save companies more than they cost.
4. Make better decisions
People often don’t realize that decision making is a skill, and like any skill it can be practiced. A lot of companies suffer from inaction because they are scared to make bad decisions. The more decisions we make, the better we get at making them.
A lot of the decisions that should be made at meetings are happening anyway. The business still needs to move forward which means teams make the best of what they have. If a decision must be made they will find 5 minutes here or there to decide. And, whilst this might work for some organizations, even at it’s best it tends to add up to a lot of time.
At the same time it usually means that decisions are made without the right information, or a lack of visibility of what’s going on elsewhere in the company.
Having regular meetings creates a place for these decisions to be made and with all of the information and visibility we might need. Dedicating time to making decisions allows teams to make better decisions, and not get so distracted with context switching all the time.
If you have any questions about how you could implement regular meetings in your team, or how you could make your meetings more effective, please ask in the comments below.