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The anti-meetings – The Weekly Huddles

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David Worth

Empty Meeting room

Meetings. Quick chats with our customers, daily if possible, don’t count as meetings. They keep everyone on the same page to make sure good progress is being made for them, to address any questions or concerns they may have, and possibly to plan the next steps to take in developing their app. By “meetings” we mean that word that brings dread to the heart of anyone who has ever looked at their schedule and seen only two hours of their daily schedule available for actual work, and in fifteen minute blocks no less.

At Highgroove we have a few tactics for avoiding just that. Firstly, we don’t have many. Moreover, all meetings are optional, and you can come and go as you like. A quick glance at my calendar shows vastly more pairings, personal trainer sessions, hack nights, team dinners, and other informal team outings than it does meetings. We consider this a win. Like all companies we still need some variety of status updates, the kind of subject matter that would usually go into a weekly company or organization meeting. To address that need we “bring it in” for the weekly huddle emails.

From our own documentation on one such huddle “This is a quick huddle-style meeting – not a working meeting. Just a high-level, decision-making quick meeting focussed on removing impediments and moving forward.” To facilitate those goals only the absolutely necessary parties are involved. Anyone is welcome but very often developers are not involved in the sales process and would rather get tacos than talk sales and marketing numbers.

On the business side of the house our huddles have a fairly strict script. The list of bullet points that make up the script can be answered effectively with little analysis, and decisions can be made. This eliminates that weekly PowerPoint snooze fest many are familiar with. To keep the rest of the team in the loop during their taco or Cherri-induced coma, an email is sent out with details from the huddle. Again, in the interests of brevity and focus, the script is copy/pasted into the email with any salient details on each one quickly described.

On the developer side of the house the process is almost identical but with slightly more developer-centric information. The content is entirely collected by email or our tracking tools like PivotalTracker, Reflecticle, and LetsFreckle, and allows everyone to have a feeling for what’s going on around them. After reading the huddle email we know who’s blogging and giving tech-talks this week, and on what subjects, who is on vacation, what clients are saying on other projects, and what special events are coming up. All-in-all it may take some time to compile, in small time slices, but it takes just a few minutes to read at your leisure without ruining your workflow, the one you always get into just before that big meeting…

What do you do to eliminate meetings and make sure you can be more productive to ride bikes and eat tacos?

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David Worth

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