An empty meeting room is a beautiful thing. Keith Eliason | Unsplash
On a recent Twitter scrolling session, I came across this amazing thread from Sergio Pereira about how he and his team “aggressively avoid” meetings and it got me thinking about Gun.io’s own approach to when and why we bring people together.
Prior to working for Gun.io, I was at a Fortune 250 retail company where we sold shoes. There was not a single meeting-free day in my whole tenure at that brand, with some days being entirely consumed by them, save a half hour where I could heat up food to eat, camera-off, in my next meeting. All to talk about shoes. How to market them, how they should look, updates to the site to make people buy more shoes.
I would argue that the work we are doing at Gun.io–getting highly-skilled developers matched with well-paying and interesting work–is infinitely more important, in the scheme of things, than selling shoes. And yet we are able to do it with a fairly minimal amount of meetings each week. I have anywhere from one to three meetings A WEEK. With a bonus 4th to drink virtual beers with my compatriots on Friday afternoons. So how do we make it all happen?
No daily meetings
Is there anyone who loves a daily standup? In my experience, they always happen near the beginning of the day. Too early to get anything meaningful done, but also not early enough to make it the actual start of the work day. We avoid this altogether with a Slack channel specifically dedicated to daily check-ins. Each team then has their own channel for communication where they can address blockers, needs, progress, etc. It allows everyone in the company to have visibility into what other teams are working on, without overloading folks with information.
Limited recurring meetings
As a department, our marketing team meets once a week. In one week, we go over what we will be doing over the course of the upcoming 2-week sprint, and the next week we check in on progress, adapt the sprint plan, and work through any issues we’re coming up against. The product team meets once a week and records their meetings so that the rest of the company can get up to speed if they want to. That last part is key. Product is at the heart of everything we do here, but we don’t all need to be involved in their conversation. If a meeting is recurring, it should address new and useful information EVERY time.
Information sharing does not require a meeting
Meetings should have actions and agendas attached to them. They should be a place to discuss, bounce ideas off one another, etc. If the only reason you are having a meeting is because you need to disseminate information, you should not be having that meeting. The technology exists to do so much of this asynchronously: record a Loom, send an email, share a slide deck, set up a Slack channel. We have a lot of information to share within the company, and very rarely does it require a meeting to do so.
Proper preparation prevents useless meetings
Earlier this year, Faith wrote a great piece about how the team managed to have a virtual brainstorming session that *gasp* actually worked. And you know what the secret sauce was? Everyone involved had homework to do before the meeting. A very direct set of objectives and questions to be covered was sent to the team, and when they arrived on-screen, they got right to work. The meeting was not only extremely successful, but left everyone involved feeling like their time was valued and their input was important.
Avoiding meetings when possible isn’t just respectful of everyone’s time, it also allows your team the freedom to really dig in and dive deep into the problems each individual is working on. Ideally, you have hired people who are extremely capable, and respecting those capabilities and allowing them to flourish will do more for your brand and your company than any number of meetings ever could.
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