In the midst of a hectic day, we’ve all looked up in the afternoon and had the realization that our most precious resource (time) has been unceremoniously taken from us. According to Atlassian, the average employee attends 62 meetings per month and believes about half of that time is wasted. Managers and executives attend even more meetings!
Here are four ways you can cut meetings and get your team’s time back.
1. Create a meeting standard to communicate the 5 Ws
A meeting standard makes explicit how participants’ time will be used and provides the discipline to understand how a meeting relates to the organization’s priorities. It spells out the purpose of the meeting, when and why it occurs, who attends, who owns it, the timeframe focus, as well as prep and expected outputs from the meeting.
The meeting owner can quickly create a specific agenda based on a meeting standard. An added bonus is that this practice speeds up on-boarding. It helps quickly bring new members of a team up to speed by providing a meaningful map of expectations of how to use time.
2. Repeat the meeting’s objective and its relationship to the organization’s priorities every meeting
This is a quick tactic that takes mere seconds to focus attention. It anchors the team to the reason they are meeting.
If discussion within the meeting deviates from the meeting’s objectives, attendees may be unprepared, the wrong people may present, or the topic could be important enough that it needs to get escalated to a larger group of people. All important things to know!
3. Evaluate your meetings on a routine basis
Organizations and their priorities evolve – what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Routines make life easier, but meetings become stale if they are not scrutinized. Looking at each meeting every 6-12 months and examining their objectives and effectiveness in driving outputs allows you to keep control of the direction your organization takes.
4. Understand and be deliberate about your organization’s Operating Rhythm
An organization’s operating rhythm is its “heartbeat.” It defines how the organization communicates and makes decisions. All organizations have an operating rhythm, but few consciously work to make sure that operating rhythm matches their needs.
Organizations frequently fail to match their time allocation with their priorities. The organization has either multiple meetings to discuss the exact same topic, or no meeting at all! An effective operating rhythm is designed with the organization’s priorities in mind and is forthcoming as well as transparent about what meetings occur when.
This is a difficult step, but yields a great return! Calendar analysis (like that available at Esper.com) can show how your organization and the people in it schedule time. This is a great starting point to meaningfully direct how, when, and for what period you drive action.
Time is one thing that we’re not making any more of – use it the best way you can!
High performing teams depend on several universally accepted tenants like common purpose, open collaboration and adaptability. Whether you are part of a Navy SEAL Team, a World Cup soccer team, or a Software Scrum Team, these tenants are supported by the core bedrock of Trust.
At the end of the year it is customary for various publications to reflect on the past year and make predictions for the coming one. In the 2016 year-end edition of “The Economist”, Tor Garnett of the London Metropolitan Police outlined her view of the future in a series of articles highlighting “young prophets.”
According to Garnett, “Our command-and-control leadership style might be crucial during a crisis but it is failing to deliver both the radical innovation and continuous improvement that are needed to manage increasingly complex security risks and criminal threats. Moving away from the ‘leader as hero’ style to a ‘team of teams’ approach, as many lean manufacturing businesses have done, will be difficult but vital to our success.”
On the morning of August 14, 1914, the French military governor of Paris and commander of the Armies of Paris General Joseph-Simon Gallieni, called a meeting of his cabinet. This gathering was not an ordinary meeting. It was less than four weeks after the beginning of World War I, and German troops were already advancing on Paris. The General requested that his cabinet stand, rather than sit, and asked that they refrain from wasting time discussing issues related to whether or not to defend Paris. Instead, he asked the group to certify its existing plans to defend the city, and review specific tactical orders in order to speed up the process. The meeting lasted just fifteen minutes.
Nearly eighty years later, a team of software engineers at Easel Corporation rose from their desks with a different objective: to deliver a working piece of software to their customer, on time, with all of the promised features. Jeff Sutherland, co-founder of the agile management practice Scrum, led the team as they recited what they would do that day to move the team closer to its goal. The stand-up meeting had three rules: it was at the same time every day, it lasted no longer than 15 minutes, and all team members were required to participate. After just one week of adopting this practice, Sutherland observed a 400% improvement in the productivity of his team.
Stand-ups have unrivaled popularity in technology companies, with 80% of software engineers reporting that they take part in a daily stand-up in a VersionOne survey. Like Sutherland’s meeting, stand-ups typically last no more than 15 minutes and take place at the same time every day. The practice varies from company to company, with some organizations requiring participants to carry a medicine ball as they speak or imposing fines for showing up late, but the meetings share a single purpose: to ensure the team is aligned, progressing toward the objective, and that all roadblocks are removed as quickly as possible.
Published in 2001 by a team of 17 software developers, the Agile Manifesto outlines the ideal daily meeting. Stand-ups are held standing, rather than sitting, to encourage brevity and minimize distractions. During the meeting, each team member must answer these three questions:
What did you do yesterday to help the team reach its objective?
What will you do today to help the team reach its objective?
What obstacles are getting in the way?
These updates enable the team to ensure that it is meeting its goals, that decisions are made in time for effective execution, and that it is self-organizing around problems. They are particularly effective in complex environments, in which the tasks of team members are interdependent and teams must adjust and reprioritize quickly. Stand-ups turn the frustrations associated with rapid change into opportunities for the team to collaborate and react collectively. Managers also leave the meetings with line-of-sight into the impediments their team is facing and what they can do to fix them.
The challenges of complexity and interdependent work are not unique to software, and are something nearly every business struggles with in the 21st century. Our company, CrossLead, surveyed over 10,000 employees from 12 different organizations working outside the software development space about the obstacles they face at work. Only 43% of employees say that their companies make decisions in time for effective execution, and 40% say their companies have a process for dealing with unexpected changes. The daily stand-up provides a solution to both of these problems, but has yet to achieve a major presence outside of software. Yet many non-tech companies that have embraced stand-ups report successes similar to developers.
The legal team at travel guide publisher Lonely Planet provides an excellent case study for how standup and other agile practices work outside of software. Prior to its agile transformation, the team was regularly working past midnight due to shifting priorities and drop-in demands from across the organization. Adding daily standups to their calendar allowed them to better manage changing requirements and realistically assess what could be accomplished that week. It helped them set clearer expectations with their stakeholders and illuminate the obstacles that were preventing them from working faster. The team credits stand-ups and other agile practices for its transformation from the most over-worked to the leanest entity at Lonely Planet.
Our team at CrossLead began running daily stand-ups with a California-based hardware manufacturer. Though leadership initially resisted adding another meeting to the schedules of their already-busy staff, a strategic offsite highlighted major differences in the priorities of the engineering and product management divisions, whose responsibilities were highly intertwined. The company attributed missed deadlines and customer attrition to a lack of collaboration between these teams.
The friction between engineering and product management was nothing new; the engineers focused on innovating new products and experimentation, while product management worried about business case for each change and how customers would react. Introducing cross-functional daily stand-ups integrated these teams so they could communicate their changing priorities and understand the consequences of shifting their timelines. The result was increased coordination between the business units, and speedier delivery to customers. Additionally, the daily meeting created personal relationships between individuals who had previously seen each other as roadblocks. They shared more information proactively, rather than reactively as they had in the past.
Like with General Galieni’s standing meeting in 1914, stand-ups are tactically focused and designed to ensure that team members have the information they need to execute effectively against a pre-determined objective. Though the meetings themselves are tactical in nature, adding them to your calendar is a strategic move. It encourages them to speak openly about their priorities. It empowers them to self-organize around their challenges. And most importantly, it enables the team to adapt and meet the changing demands of reality faster.
 Tuchman, Barbara. 1962. The Guns of August. Dell Publishing Company.
Jess leads our Analytics Team, expertly managing our statistics and analytics processes. She creates tailored organizational performance diagnostics and network analysis for clients, to help them better understand how their organizations are functioning.
Jess comes to CrossLead after diverse experience in the management consulting industry. She graduated from Cornell University with a BS in Industrial and Labor Relations.
On December 5th and 6th, I had the pleasure of attending the Chief Strategy Officer Summit put on by Innovation Enterprise in New York. This group of professionals had a distinct energy – there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world and their organizations have charged them with determining not only a viable path, but one that will bring them great success. This is no small task!
When considering the four principles of CrossLead: Trust, Empowered Execution, Common Purpose, and Shared Consciousness, it is Shared Consciousness that is often seen as the most abstract.
It is straightforward to look back at events and see when you trusted someone, when you were empowered to accomplish a task, or when you were with a group that all shared a common purpose. If someone were to ask you the last time you shared consciousness with someone, you might ask them how long it has been since they left the commune.
The holiday spirit has spread to the CrossLead Platform today with the release of our latest gift to our users – Version 4!
While many are taking time off to spend more time with loved ones in the coming days and weeks, you’ll be delighted to use the latest version on your return.
This is our biggest release yet, with many features that deliver more value and enjoyment from using the CrossLead Platform. It positions us for a very exciting 2017 product release cycle, which will see us maintain the same pace as 2016: fortnightly small releases, and large quarterly releases.
This quarter’s highlights include:
Brand new Presentation Mode
A revamped interface and workflow means teams can now access their presentations directly from the Navigation Bar to support the operating rhythm events in your organization.
New Plan Tiles
Attach a metric directly to the tile of your team’s plan in both column and single page views to allow teammates to see how you’re measuring success.
Enhanced Metrics UI
Bigger text and cleaner lines make your charts pop!
Stay better informed on the progress across your team and organization in one spot. Add it from your console as a new panel.
Daily Activities enhancements
Building off our third quarter launch of our newest module, numerous enhancements allow users to more easily prioritize their day.
As the organizations we work with know, creating, sustaining, and scaling a shared consciousness is process that does not happen overnight. Through the use of our platform, we’ve seen leaders change how their teams consume and spread information. With our V4 release, the ways that teams can communicate and maintain a shared consciousness has never been easier. We’re excited to see all the amazing things that you build and accomplish in 2017!
It is no secret that the world and its workplaces have changed in the past two decades; technological innovation has unleashed a previously unimaginable world.
Despite the opportunities for boundless growth, the burden to adapt to this new world falls on organizations and their people. Employees and managers are expected to work harder, react faster, make better decisions, and achieve bigger objectives with fewer resources. Teams self-organize for missions, then disband and re-organize. The title of a recentNew York Timesarticle on this topic posed an important question:
In the 1960s, academics like Michael Porter at Harvard Business School and Bill Bain at BCG (and later Bain) helped to define the idea of corporate strategy. From that humble beginning, a robust global consulting industry was born. Today, almost all companies engage in an annual planning and strategy process.
While the process to develop a robust strategy is mature and well established, organizations seem to have much less success in translating their strategy into execution.
I’m sweating in the baking Italian sun on the front straight of the Monza Raceway listening to the drivers rev their engines in anticipation of the start.
The light turns green and the race is underway as each driver battles to be first into turn one. I sat in a sea of loyal Ferrari fans or “tifosi” screaming encouragement in Italian. Lap after lap, I watch as the field goes by and tune into that hum of the engines. It’s not what it used to be but there’s no sound quite like it. After a slow start, Lewis Hamilton fought his way back to finish right behind teammate, Nico Rosberg, giving Mercedes its fifth one-two finish in 2016. In what was mostly an uneventful race for Formula One standards, it was evident that all of the other teams were competing for that final podium spot and a few more points towards the Championship. Working at CrossLead I’m trained to assess teamwork and leadership. Watching Mercedes blow the competition out of the water, I was intrigued to investigate the root cause for their success.