Software Development and the Art of Minimising Meetings

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Most software development teams face a daily struggle to fit in endless briefing meetings with the need to make progress and get the actual work done. Most I know would prefer to focus their energy on creating high-quality code and delivering great software. But, there seems to be a perception in the world of agile, that meetings are essential to keep team's focused, drive progress and make decisions. I don't see it this way.

If a team is working well, communication and collaboration will naturally flow as a part of getting stuck in and doing the work. In my experience, waiting for a meeting to happen before you make a decision often kills momentum and progress.

In my view, meetings should only happen when you need to review overall progress, make overarching decisions or set strategic goals.

If you want to reduce the time you spend in meetings and focus more on getting work done, here are a few of my top tips:

  1.   Involve stakeholders upfront. If you get the right people together at the beginning of a project and agree on the overall strategic goals, project milestones and timelines, it will help you keep the number of meetings throughout the project lifecycle to a minimum.
  2.   Empower teams. It's crucial to make sure teams feel empowered to make decisions as the project progresses and don't feel the need to seek approval every step of the way.
  3.   Track progress and decisions. Recording progress and decisions and making them visible to everyone will enable the broader team to know the latest on a project reducing the need for 'update' meetings.
  4.   Encourage other forms of communication. Instant messaging tools and video conferencing, for example, can be a better way for teams to communicate. They improve the speed at which teams communicate and can also enable greater spontaneity. For instance, new ideas can be validated quickly via a short chat message avoiding the need to wait for the next meeting to discuss them.
  5.   Governance on the go. Having project governance in place is vital. Ideally, automate as much of it as possible to save time. In some instances, code and infrastructure changes can be audited automatically to ensure progress is not delayed waiting for the right people to make decisions. It also allows developers to iterate rapidly and ensure compliance on the go.

If you'd like to spend more time focusing on getting work done, set a realistic goal to reduce the number of meetings you hold over the next three-six months. Once your teams start to realise the benefit of having more time to get their work done, change will almost definitely happen.