Fun Effective Meetings

We all love them. Those hours of pure fun, creativity and innovation. Meetings.

How come that we love them so much? Is it the coffee? Is it the the comfortable chairs and large tables? Is it the fact that we have time to break another world record in candy crush?

Now seriously, why is it so common for people to hate meetings? Why do many of us continuously complain about the fact that there are too many of them?

Probably because in many cases our meetings suck (This is a technical term BTW).


 

Often meetings are just a waste of our time. They are ineffective, lead to no action,unfocused and we feel that we could have had better use of our time instead of sitting in this large room filled with people.

The good news are that It doesn't have to be that way.

Some meetings are not a waste of time, some meetings are considered valuable by the participants. How you ask?

Below are 10 tips to amplify the effectiveness of your meetings, I hope that after reading this you will schedule a meeting to share it with your team ;)


Tip 1: 5 minutes to empty your mind (brain dump)

Meetings can sidetrack, in fact they often do. The reasons are ranging from a discussion about a movie or a concert we went to, to office gossip and the latest new open source project discovered.

One Scrum master i have worked with experimented with a way to reduce this behavior by allowing 5 minutes of brain dump at the beginning of every meeting. It helped them improve meeting focus, it may help you as well.


Tip 2: facilitate

Meeting don't just become effective out of the blue, it is a result of deliberate action and specifically facilitation. Do you have a facilitator to your meetings? Does she have the skill and knowledge to effectively facilitate a meeting? Was there enough time to prepare the format?


Tip 3: Start on time

Meeting are often scheduled in advance, which means participants had enough time to make sure they can arrive on time (there are exceptions).  And still what if people are late, to me it often means that they do not care enough about the meeting (what if the meeting was to ruffle 10,000 Euro - would they be late then?), if people are late you need to examine the reasons and in the absence of good reasons, define working agreements that will allow this to work. Examples are:

  • If you are late you are a silent observer.

  • If you are late three times, we stop inviting you to the meeting.

  • If you are late you should bring refreshments.

Tip 4: Finish on time

People are busy, some of the hop from one meeting to the other, back to back meetings are not rare. If you do not finish on time your own meeting, how can you expect others to do so, also this will probably be a factor in having people being late to other meetings. If the time is about the finish and you think more time is needed, consult with the participants what would be an effective way to continue, avoid extending the meeting for “just 3 more minutes”.


Tip 5: talking stick

This is a very popular tool originated in Indian tribes for meeting with the problem of having people talking over others.
The concept is to have an object and only the person holding that object gets to talk, then when the person is done she can either place the object back at the center or hand it over to another person she wants to hear.


Tip 6: talking tokens

Have you ever been to meeting where one or two people take over the meeting and just never shut up? I have. One solution i have found it to give tokens based on the time of the meeting.
Example: for a 60 hour meeting i would assume the facilitator would take roughly 10 minutes, which leaves 50 minutes for the participants, so if there are 10 participants each one gets 5 tokens that can they can use. Whenever they want to speak they need to pay a token and a timer starts, after the minute passes if the person wants to continue they need to pay with another token. Simple & effective,


Tip 7: Digital equipment - out!

Please please please!!! Leave all your electronics outside unless they are super essential. Place a box at the door for phones, don't allow laptops in, they are the most distracting things ever!


Tip 8: Avoid projectors

One of the things that causes people to fall asleep are long and boring presentation, especially when lights are dimmed or off. This is normal but can be avoided many times, How?

If you have only a few slides, can you copy them to a whiteboard or flipchart?

Provide handouts to participants with the diagram you want to explain?

I bet you can come up with more ideas..


Tip 9: Be prepared

If you are about the host a meeting or attend a meeting, be prepared, preparation may mean to check that you have all of the knowledge expected, that you have enough time and mental capacity to attend effectively, that you understand your role in the meeting, are you an observer?  A contributor? A facilitator? Once you know, one suggestion is to act based on your role. Are you unclear what your role is? In that case you should probably read tip number 10.




Tip 10: Don't attend meetings

I beg you, PLEASE… Stop attending meeting that you don't need to, don't go just because you are invited and you feel obliged, this is probably one of the major reasons why meetings become ineffective! If you are not absolutely sure you need to be there, you probably don't. If you do not have a good understanding why this is an important investment of your time, just stay in your chair and do stuff, or go and have a cup of water. I know some organization consider that behavior to be rude, if that is the case for you, you probably need to call a meeting to change that :)

 

I hope you find these ideas useful, if you do and if you don't please let me know by commenting.
Got other tips? Please comment.
For more, follow me on twitter @eladsof

 

May the force be with you,

Elad.

 

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Not_SAFe

Yes. As the name of the post suggests, we at Practical Agile have chosen not to be involved in SAFe adoptions.

Some may ask: But you are practical Agile and your subtitle is “Agile in your context” isn't this kind of statement in conflict with your own brand? We think not, and this post will try to explain why.

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manage_product_backlog

Disclaimer: If you haven't read my “Managing the product backlog for 8 teams“ post - I highly recommend you read it before continuing to read this blog

First thing is first: What the hell were you thinking when you decided that you need 50 teams for your product?! I hope you had a really good reason for it. 9 out of 10 times you have made a bad decision…

 

But here we are, having a product that has 50 teams, which means dealing with ~600 fine grained Product Backlog items at any given moment, i think we can all agree that this is definitely too much for one person to deal with (Disagree with that? Please do not stay silent and comment). So how would we go about and deal with such a big PBL?

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Five Important points to mange PBL for 8 teams

The product backlog (PBL) is probably the second most important artifact in any LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) \ Scrum implementation, the only artifact I find more important is the product itself.

In a on-team scrum the Product Backlog is pretty much simple (though not easy) to manage, if you follow the recommendation of having each team take 3-4 PBIs (product backlog items) per sprint, this means that the product owner needs to deal with about 12 fine-grained product backlog items at any given time, not all require full attention.

Why 12 you ask?

  • It is recommended that we have product backlog items refined & ready (AKA groomed) for the next two sprints or so.. Given that we have 4 items in progress, 4 for the next sprint and 4 being refined for the next-next sprint. Total is 12.

Got it? Good :) If not, please feel free to contact in the comments or contact me personally

 

  • So far so good, now let’s scale it to 8 teams. (8 teams) x (12 items) = ~100 items, which is what the LeSS Framework suggests to be the limit of items that one Product Owner can deal with simultaneously. I know it sounds like a lot of items to deal with, but it is totally doable when performing the Product Owner  role as described in the LeSS framework.

 

  • The Large Scale Scrum framework is designed (just like Scrum, mind you) in a way that the Product Owner deals mostly with prioritization and less with clarification, with this description most people agree that 100 Product Backlog Items sounds like a reasonable number.

 

  • Assuming that you work properly, at any given moment there are ~33 items in work which require low to no attention, 33 items ready for the next sprint that requires low attention as well, so most of the work is spent on the remaining 33 items, now what should the PO do with these items?

 

  • Mainly: Prioritize. Given that you have a 40 hour work week and a two week sprint, that gives more than enough time to prioritize 33 items and even get some more stuff done. Capish?

 

For more, follow me on twitter @eladsof    

 

May the force be with you,

Elad Sofer.

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We are all under pressure, we are all expected to be productive and deliver value to our customers, so it makes sense to have enough confidence that the time investment will turn out beneficial.

 

I believe that after reading this post you will have enough good reasons to attend a “Certified LeSS Practitioner training” (CLP).

I have structured the post as a Q&A session with yours truly :)

Q1 : What will i learn in the CLP training?

If you are reading this post you are a learner, you understand that there is value in other people’s perspective and opinion, the CLP is very much about learning, even more than that, the way I structure the training makes it more about learning than anything else.

While some trainings are about providing you with answers and prescription, the CLP is about providing the thinking tools and model that will amplify your ability to solve complex organizational problems, specifically about becoming an Agile organization.

 

Q2: My organization is already doing SAFe, is there a point in attending?

Great! In that case you have the opportunity to learn and evaluate what other options you have.
I assume that when you choose a technological solution for example, you evaluate more than one option, you compare and eventually do what is beneficial for you.

The same goes for choosing a framework and deciding how to design your organization.

 

Q3 : Ok, which tools and model will I learn

In addition to gaining a deep understanding about the LeSS framework, you will also learn the why, some of the tools we will use are  “System modeling”, “Systems thinking”,”Lean thinking”, “Feature team adoption maps” and more.
Some of the models that will be discussed and applied are “Evidence based management”, “Queuing theory”, “Theory X and Theory Y”, “Agile s/w development” and many more.

 

Q4 : Are these modes and tools practical?

Yes! All of the things we shall use are also applicable in your own domain and every organization can benefit from having these tools in its toolbox, these tools will help you and your organization to develop a better way of thinking about the challenges you are facing.

And, in addition to the model and tools, there will also be plenty of examples and a review of a case study of a LeSS adoption.

 

Q5: Are there reasons not to attend?

If you are looking for a laid back type of training in which you can stay in your seat and just listen this training is probably not for you. There will be plenty of activities in the duration of the 3 days, some of it will remain a surprise, some of it will be pure fun, some of it will be challenging and difficult, some will take place after the formal training hours…

 

Q6: Why should i attend a training with you (Elad Sofer)?

I will let others answer this question:
-  "Dear Elad, training was very valuable, it was done in a clear and graceful manner. I learned a lot. Thank you for the dedication, professionalism and the knowledge you gave us”, Orna Shapira - Agile coach.

- “The training was filled with useful content, When we focused on LeSS and LeSS hugh i could imagine my organization in most of examples and explanations which very much fit my needs. I have written down at least 10 things i would like to try with my team and my organization and you have given me plenty of food for thought, Thanks." - Irena Label - Cisco

- "Amazing course. Learnt a lot of new and interesting stuff which I'm going to share and implement in my organization." - Alon Cohen  - RSA

 

If you want to know more or have any further questions, do contact me on twitter @eladsof

Upcoming Courses:

Israel

Chicago
London


May the force be with you,

Elad Sofer.

 

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