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Classification is a Remote Meeting Best Practice

Andrew Nelson
February 9, 2021

Welcome to the third entry in Remote Velocity’s Remote Meeting Culture series! In this series, we explore Remote Meeting Culture’s best practices and dive into some examples to help your organization.

In today's entry, we are exploring the importance of classifying meetings.

Meeting Classifications

When planning and evaluating meetings, it is valuable to classify remote meetings. This helps your organization build patterns and templates that maximize the utilization of meeting time. The result is a predictable framework that supports meetings before, during, and afterwards.

  • Short daily stand-up or check-in meetings: These meetings value short-duration, accountability, and signaling.
  • Formally scheduled meetings: These meetings are for interpretive thinking and collaboration.
  • One-on-one check-ins: Help to maintain healthy, professional relationships with remote workers. They focus on connection, empathy, and perspective.
  • Impromptu and self-surfacing meetings can arise when complex tasks or issues require colleagues’ discussion to reach a milestone.

Meeting classifications are essential when evaluating your team's meeting culture. Suppose it is not possible to distinguish between the various categories. In that case, it may be because your organization is fusing meeting types (e.g., a weekly status meeting) to cover everything in one session. This can result in a meeting where outcomes and goals become blurred, and the time is less productive.

When this happens, likely, the meeting documentation, goal, and minutes are not in place. In this example, a stakeholder looking to follow-up is not aware of the action items or cannot reference the meeting minutes. 

Impromptu meetings might seem like a natural phenomenon. More often than not, it is difficult to determine if and when they should be held. Professional experience and close relationships help make this decision easier. Likewise, new team members will struggle with the deployment of impromptu meetings. They are likely to either hold back or overuse these meetings to gain their footing. Different personalities will reflect these tendencies. The critical point with ‘Impromptu’ meetings is for everyone to be aware of them.

Regularly scheduled meetings are not always required. If the team is on track or pushing towards a goal, not meeting may be a better use of time. 

More and more frequently, organizations tend to lean on messaging, with email or instant messengers. We have seen organizations attempt to use messaging over meetings. In the past, and in the office, you could spot this tendency. It resulted in a deafening quiet and a lack of people moving around and talking. Raising awareness around the use of Impromptu meetings helps to maximize their effectiveness.

Remote teams and distributed organizations need clean, clear, and organized communication. Here are some guidelines to help keep each of the remote meeting types on track:

Daily stand-up

  • Appoint a leader.
  • Time-box the meeting.
  • Stay focused on the current work and anything that is slowing or impacting it.

Scheduled meetings

  • Determine if the meeting is necessary - see Part 1 for helpful suggestions
  • Constrain the participant list as much as possible.
  • Draft an agenda and distribute it to participants ahead of time.
  • Stay focused and never backup for late arrivals. 
  • Draft meeting minutes during the meeting and in front of the participants. Organize your minutes around:
  • Risks (may face in the future)
  • Issues (are facing)
  • Action items

One-on-ones

  • Open-ended
  • Ask open questions such as: what would you have done differently? What do you like best about the team, project, work? What changes would make things better?
  • Listen and focus on the other person.

Impromptu

  • Be kind - interruptions can be good or bad; take time before reacting when others need your time.
  • Be thoughtful - always ask the other person if that is a good time for them before calling via phone/video meeting.
  • Think twice before instant messaging. Frequent messaging can be a symptom of poor meeting performance.


Proper preparation involves classifying your organization’s meetings in advance. 

Example: how should your organization use the Daily Stand-up.

The answer may sound curt. Only use DSU to signal how each person is tracking to the nearest goal. If a team member reports an unexpected event, the team leader/manager should schedule a private one-on-one to gather more information. The proper environment for a team member to discuss sensitive and personal topics is the one-on-one meeting. 

For all other issues, each team member should consider the following: 

First: is this something that can be resolved in writing with other team members? 

Second: is this an urgent matter that is likely to have an enormous impact on others? 

If, based on these questions, a meeting is necessary, assemble the smallest group and schedule a meeting’ to address the issue. These meetings are focused, transparent, documented, and efficient. One-on-ones are critical in remote settings. Leaders, managers, and teammates must take the initiative to focus on these meetings. 


How is your team classifying meetings? Does one type of meeting blur into another? If so, how has your organization worked through this?


In the next part of the Remote Meeting Series, we will explore the value of one-on-one meetings and a set of questions you can use to guide them.


Stay Tuned!


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