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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ways to improve meetings held for conflict / issue resolution

What I write below may seem like common sense, the kind of stuff that you would get if you were to sit back and think about how to do a meeting. This is even more important if you were to read my previous post (Reducing the number of meetings held) about how to make an effort to reduce the number of meetings that are held, which can suck up the time available with the development and testing teams. In addition, with the number of meetings being held being high, the continuous time that the teams need when they are in the middle of something gets interrupted and this can have an incredibly bad effect on productivity.
During the tension and stress of an ongoing software development cycle, teams need to resolve issues fast. As a result, when there is some kind of issue that need resolution, teams forget all the basic concepts of how to setup a meeting, what are the preliminary steps that need to be done before starting a meeting, and the net result is that even though conflicts are resolved or atleast progress made, the teams end up spending a large amount of individual time on these meetings; and we know the impact this has on the team productivity.
So what is to be done in the case of some conflict or issue that needs to be resolved. Even though it may seem logical to quickly call a meeting to get a solution for the issue, this method should be retained only for those issues that are of a show-stopper nature (for example, a defect that is stopping the launching of the application, or something equally similar). In most other cases, if you spent a bit of time, you would realize that an hour or so before the meeting can help make the meeting more productive. What are some of the steps that could be done before the meeting ? In the below steps, there may be multiple people who may need to be consulted depending on the steps (these could be team leads, project manager, development manager, quality manager, etc)
- For the issue, need to identify the people who are most competent in the issue and who would be able to contribute the maximum to this issue
- For these people, need to identify whether they are available or are involved in some other critical issue. If they are so heavily involved that it would not be good to get them out of whatever they are doing, then somebody else who can provide a solution or inputs would be needed to be identified.
- Next, a brief write-up about what the issue is would need to be written up, especially focusing on what the problem and if there are any elements of a possible solution; and this would need to be sent out atleast an hour or more so before the meeting.
- Before sending out these items, the meeting that needs to be setup should also make it clear as to who all is important for the meeting, and who would be optional for the meeting. What this does is to give team members a say in whether they need to come for the meeting or not. In most cases, what would happen is that team members who are on the optional list would evaluate whether they can contribute or not and decide accordingly. This atleast helps in saving time for those who decide not to come, and even those who come for the meeting are more informed, which makes for a quicker meeting and hence more saving of time. 

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