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  • Writer's pictureTim Burns

Agile Meeting Effectiveness

I recently contributed to a LinkedIn thread on Sprint Reviews in Agile. The Sprint Review is one of the many meetings in Scrum, and it made me think about how to handle meetings professionally. Here's one of my favorite posts on meetings (Hixies Natural Log).

Decline meetings aggressively. Always try to resolve issues by e-mail or chat first if possible. Decline any meeting without an explicit agenda (I make exceptions for my immediate manager). Decline any meeting where the agenda doesn't seem relevant to your work. Decline any recurring meeting with more than one other person. Keep track of how productive recurring meetings are being. If they're not productive, cancel them. If they're only occasionally productive, reduce the frequency. End meetings promptly once the agenda is resolved. Always leave a meeting when it reaches the end of its scheduled time. Never start a meeting late. If people are missing, start on time anyway. This is especially true for any meeting with large groups of people. Have a hard out every day, stop working at that time. Create fake buffer meetings so that you've got guaranteed breaks. Decline meetings that conflict with your breaks unless the person has explicitly reached out first. Aggressively defrag your calendar to make it look like what you want.

This behavior builds a culture that focuses on doing the work rather than wasting time. I also believe Scrum is a valuable tool to coordinate software development cycles.

Reconciling the Scrum meeting-heavy approach and an effective approach to meetings is fundamental to getting Scrum to work as an agile method. A good Scrum master respects the time of the developers and the stakeholders and tailors the meeting schedule around optimizing their time for the best results.

Any meetings in the Scrum protocol that can be eliminated by applying the above method should be done. Does that mean doing away with the daily standup? Probably not. If you can do away with your daily standup because it isn't productive, you may want to reconsider the mission of the scrum team and whether it even has a place costing the company money.

The maxim is a bit aggressive in declining and blocking your schedule. If you need to do that, then your company probably has a problem with meetings that need to be addressed at a higher level. I don't agree with artificial blocks on schedules, because you aren't addressing the problem. I want my schedule open for people to schedule me, and I can always use Slack to engage the meeting organizer to see if we can resolve this without needing to block time.

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