Product Story: Barriers to Productivity, Effectiveness, and Efficiency of Meetings

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I have always wanted to dedicate the first few lines of my articles to how I came up with the idea. Like everyone else in the Iranian IT community, I have thought about why it doesn't make us feel good to be in meetings, especially when we are in one.

Why is nothing in the right place at this meeting? Why do we realize that nothing has changed when we enter the discussion and leave it?
On the other hand …

There are meetings where we see a lot of things change. Structures are improving, new teams are forming, and things are moving fast.

During the seven years, I have been working in the Iranian IT community, I have heard these two experiences of attending meetings from different people.

Therefore, in this article, we want to focus on "barriers to productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of meetings."
Here I thank my good friends who have shared their professional views with me based on their experiences:

Sadegh Hakimpanah, Mohsen Sayadian, Ali Babaei

The topic you mentioned is very interesting and I have thought about it a lot so far and I think about it in every meeting I go to. — Ali Babaei

People:

An essential part of any meeting is the people invited to the forum. People need to be selected correctly so that we can achieve the best results. The number of people is also significant. Based on the limited time of each session, we choose the number so that all of them can express their views.

They must be well-informed about the subject matter of the meeting, or, as the saying goes, "They must be relevant to the subject."
The people in the meeting play a pivotal role. They will influence the engagement and its outcome and decisions; also, they will be affected by them.
These people should also value the meeting to which they are invited. To fulfill their obligations (attending on time and being effective) at the conference.

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Unfortunately, influential people and key decision-makers are sometimes not invited. As a result, the decision made is easily changed after the meetings because the main stakeholders were not correctly identified.
Another problem is that instead of inviting relevant people, they ask people based on their organizational level, which has many negative consequences.

Time:
In some organizational positions, the number of meetings per day is too much, and they only have enough time left for lunch and a cup of coffee. But in general, to consider the value of the time of all those present in the meeting and to have a valuable and practical meeting, it is necessary to limit the meeting time as possible while maintaining usefulness.

Unfortunately, meetings are not results-oriented, measurable, specific, regular, focused, and single-task. — Mohsen Sayadian

The meeting should start and end on time. It is okay to wait about one to two minutes for people to gather at the meeting place. After short greetings, it is better to start working on the main topic very quickly.
The session shouldn't start with Irrelevant content. Unfortunately, this is one of the bad habits to start the sessions with jokes, reminiscences, and other forms of irrelevant content.

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The duration of the session is good to be 40 minutes, but this time can vary depending on the topic and circumstances. But if you need more time, it is no longer a meeting but a working session.
If you need to spend a lot of time, there should be opportunities in between to relax and refresh. Otherwise, due to the tremendous pressure on the people present in the meeting, the meeting will no longer be applicable, and your valuable time will be wasted.

In many cases, the time spent on meetings is not considered in the overall project time and project costs. Long meeting times also cause people to not focus on the main topic.

Order:
In order to maintain the correct framework for holding meetings, it is necessary that the meeting itself be well-organized and some critical issues are observed.

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  • The first important point is that we need a meeting moderator or manager. A meeting manager is someone who has enough authority to bring order to a meeting. In different methodologies, this role takes on other names. For example, in Scrum, we call it Scrum Master. As you know, interactions in meetings and communication between colleagues play a crucial role in creating value for the team, organization, and customers.
  • The second is that a meeting must have a plan. The plan is prepared before the meeting, sent to colleagues, and allows people to enter the session with a proper mindset. Not that they become familiar with the subject for the first time after entering the meeting, which sometimes can be shocking. It takes a lot of time and energy from the meeting so that people can have a complete understanding and view of the main topic. As a result, there is not enough time to deal with critical decisions and issues.
  • The third issue is the minutes. All decisions need to be recorded and sent to those present at the meeting. The minutes of most meetings reflect the duties and responsibilities of individuals.

Content:
The content of a meeting is significant because it specifies who should be attending the conference. At the same time, it directly affects the time we have to devote to each session.

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  • It is necessary to refrain from using generalized titles. It must be clear what is the purpose of our gathering together. This needs to be considered even in periodic meetings.
  • Typically, people start Doing it after the Meetings. There is a general view that things should start after making the decision!
  • But all the items should be specified before the meeting, and a large amount of work, such as preparing documents and plans, etc., should be designed before the meeting, and only the final decision should be made.
  • Another downside is that several different topics are raised in one session, and as a result, people do not precisely understand the subject and the end result.
  • Also, the goals are more qualitative and not quantitative. Goals must be both quantitative and qualitative. But sometimes, there are no clear metrics and definitions.
  • The next point is that, in many cases, the goals of the meeting do not fit the organization's goals.

The first and most important thing that comes to my mind about the meeting are its subject and content. Is it a management meeting, decision making, consulting, product-related, reporting, etc.? I think each of these meetings can have a different format. -Sadegh Hakimpanah

Work experience with foreign companies (Mohsen Sayadian)
I have worked with two foreign companies. The following items were indexed in them:

  • The meetings were concise.
  • Only the result was significant, and even the Best Practices were not very important in the case of achieving the result.
  • The cost of the sessions was calculated and measured.
  • Because we are more in tune with one meeting, we do not need to spend time on other arrangements to understand the objective.
  • Items related to the meeting topic were stated very clearly and sent to colleagues before the meeting.
  • People were friendly with each other in the meetings. But only the main issue was discussed.
  • All the items needed to review and hold the meeting were ready in advance.
  • The conclusion was clear.

An organization with too many meetings is more likely to have problems with organizational culture (interaction and collaboration).
- Sadegh Hakimpanah

Have you ever experienced these things?

What is your experience with meeting effectiveness and its barriers? Please share them with us in the comments section.

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A Product Owner who loves reading and writing, nature, animals, and art.

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Masih Heidarizadeh

A Product Owner who loves reading and writing, nature, animals, and art.