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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ensuring the minimum number of meetings necessary ...

In software companies, if there is one item that is necessary, it is the concept of meetings. Meetings are the life blood of companies, and sometimes, one feels that the number of meetings that are held are excessive. In my experience, I have had developers and testers coming and complaining that the number of meetings that they are being invited to is so excessive that they feel the time involved for work is getting impacted. Even further, when a person is getting into the core of their work - whether it being the design of a new feature, or the solution of a difficult defect, or the execution of a difficult test case, facing a break in between is guaranteed to rankle. And there are numerous meetings where the team members (developers / testers / others) could be called for meetings, where it would seem that they are necessary.
Some of these meetings could be:
- Feature discussion meetings (numerous)
- Schedule planning meetings
- Task definition meetings and estimation
- Issue resolution meetings
- Daily / Periodic status meetings
- Add your own set of meetings here
You get the idea. It can be pretty frustrating. I have seen weeks where there were atleast 4-5 meetings per day, and even though you would think that these meetings are important, they do cause other problems. And at some point, if the people invited for these meetings start feeling that the subject of the meeting is not important for them, then you will start getting resistance in ensuring that these meetings are held.

So what is the solution ? There is no magic bullet, no quick solution I can give that will reduce the number of meetings you need to do. It requires careful planning, discussions between the respective managers (such as the project / program manager, the development manager, and the testing manager). Some of the questions that need to be asked before a meeting is set are the following (and there would be other questions that are not in the list below, it is just an indicator of the thinking that needs to happen):
1. The invitee list for the meeting needs to be evaluated. Is each person really necessary for the meeting. Can some people be marked optional, so that they can determine for themselves whether it is necessary.
2. If there are some minor issues that could be settled in a meeting, but could also be settled through a quick phone call or a quick hallway discussion, then that makes sense. In many issues, one person really needs to make a call, and the others need to just be informed. In such cases, having a meeting is really not necessary.
3. Is the issue really necessary to be discussed urgently ? What this means is, if the meeting is pushed out by a couple of days or a week, would it still be fine ? If so, then an alternate would be to postpone the meeting and see whether the issue can be resolved through phone calls or an email discussion.
4. In some meetings, the discussion is about nobody willing to take a quick call, or because there are no real solutions. In such cases, the meeting in a number of cases will fail or another meeting will need to be held. It would be better to prepare a solution or a note that clarifies issues, and then send that out. In many cases, this would be accepted by most of the people who have the authority to accept it.

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