Communication is fundamental to software development; as it’s key that expectations are aligned by all party’s involved. There is just so many variables, from product owners, designers, third party hardware suppliers, not to mention developers creating the product involved; there is too many chances one of these is out of alignment; leading to a feature or task not being implemented correctly. Leading to time & money wasted, frustration and worse; product delivery delays. 

Meetings are the most productive tool you can use to manage any project, yet more often than not; they have the adverse effect. In software development, where timeframes and productivity is critical; it’s imperative that meetings are as productive as possible; here’s our steps which ensure meetings are productive and more importantly; products are delivered on time!

Attendees; does everyone need to be present?

Ever wondered why most meetings are booked in for at least 60 minutes? Why? It’s a waste of time; unless there is a long list of agenda items dictating this of course. 

Meetings of more than 7 people is simply pointless; too many decision makers, too many personality’s, too many places for people to hide. If all developers are in a meeting; they’re not writing any lines of code and the product creation cycled is being delayed accordingly.  

You want passionate people in the room, ideally 1 person from each department working on the product, so a designer, a front end developer, backend developer, project manager / product owner and tester. So all variables can work together to resolve a problem / cook up exciting opportunities, using collective skillsets and brain lengths. Any more than 7 people, and the meeting go’s off topic and a 20 minute meeting becomes an hour

Re-imagine the Update meeting 

Getting the whole company together for each person to talk through, one by one, what they have done that week and to give a progress updates just eat’s up time. By the time you’re half way through the meeting, most attendees have turned off 

Instead, Update meetings should be product specific, focussed on what each person is doing for the week ahead. A 1 minute quick fire of what they’re working on and if they have any blockers or issues which will prevent them from achieving it is all that’s needed.  With it being product specific, all relevant people are there to assist / resolve that problem and negative knock on effects to other products can be caught quickly preventing delays and frustration. 

Don’t bring Donuts

Meetings should be 20 minutes, tops. We don’t have time to eat no Donut. 

Be animated, take a walk, draw out the problem and thoughts on a white wall. Stretching your legs and your brain at the same time not only boosts creativity, but importantly, drawing it out on a board allows it to be visualised. 

Visualisation allows all members to see what is important as it’s in front of them, setting the agenda and focussing discussions; allowing conversations to stay on topic rather than straying offer conversational rabbit holes. 

Further still, visualisation allows problems to be departmentalised, you’ll start to be able to come up with tasks to resolve and cluster these tasks together into a flow so that the once previous problem; has a productive roadmap of tasks leading to it’s resolution.

Make meetings count

Meetings should have a clear agenda, be planned out with visuals by the person proposing them and have actionable items. 

This allows everyone attending to know and be prepared for what is being discussed – so they can prepare ahead of time and prevent the first 20 minutes being a discussion of what the agenda items are. 

Should other conversation matters come up, they can be dismissed so conversations are brought back to matters listed in the agenda – the people in the meeting are there to discuss the agenda points, any other topics are most likely irrelevant to them, so allowing topics to go off piste is wasting their time. 

After each agenda item, make a note of each decision item and ensure someone is delegated to action it 

Meetings should be documented, this shouldn’t be the waste of time of taking minutes, this is uploading each the agenda item heading, the outcome agreed and who needs to action it. Confluence and Jira is ideal for this, as their link up and status updates streamlines this process.

After the agreed action time, i.e 2 weeks; the meeting file should be reviewed by the person who proposed the meeting; reviewing the status update of each agenda item and chasing up what the blocker or issue is if it has not been completed. 

Send an email slack group message instead

A meeting is a collection of minds to resolve a problem or to plan out an opportunity. A meeting of 8 people for 1 hour is a days worth of revenue the company is wasting away. 

Communication services such as Slack have their place to highlight problems and issues and can quickly resolved matters. A couple of sentences in a group Slack message which all product team members can see; can quickly resolve a good range of tasks enabling you to productively move on, without having to wait and schedule a meeting when everyone is free and available. 

If you’re Slack message becomes a back and two dialog of 3 responses or more; instantly put a pin in it and have a meeting instead. Communication services are there to flag matters and quick dialog, anything more than this and it’s simply more productive to get everyone talking. 

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