The best work team

15 Oct

Eiko Nagase writesAny recurring meeting becomes stale over time if left unexamined.” I concur. For the meeting I run every week it’s become a drag after a year or so to even think of building the agenda. For some of the weekly meetings I attend, I sometimes don’t bother reading the agenda.

Eiko compiled a selection of tips to make your meetings less painful, such as changing the dynamics (location, space, time, participants, language, sound, tech) and concludes that “Constant iteration ensures that processes stay fresh and that, on the whole, they improve.

I think ‘constant iteration’ is either aspirational or a waste of time, unless you {are | have a member of your staff} dedicated to monitoring processes. Constantly iterating, if unexamined becomes stale as well. However, it’s healthy and useful to come back to processes, reassess them, and benchmark them against objectives.

hand-drawn illustration of a W3C face to face meeting, in a U-shaped room, showing people around the table in front of laptops, one person at the microphone, and slides projected on a screen

Above is my hand-drawn illustration of a W3C face to face meeting, in a U-shaped room, showing people around the table in front of laptops, one person at the microphone, and slides projected on a screen. This is one of the recurring types of meetings I run, but being part of a distributed team, the majority is weekly teleconferences and one face-to-face per year.

Here are elementary principles that work for me:

  1. Appreciate the people at your meeting and the time they give to your meeting. Your team, your people, your assets, your luck.
  2. Establish goals for the meeting. Building an agenda and sharing it ahead of time is useful. You may build it with your team. Remind your team of the agenda at the start of the meeting.
  3. Take notes, or find a scribe who does. Record salient points, questions, answers, actions and resolutions.
  4. Watch the time and keep to the time. Make sure you give appropriate focus to each item in the meeting docket. Don’t move to a new item without a clear path forward or next steps to the item at hand. If the matter can’t be resolved, state it. Options range from breaking out separately to further brainstorm, take the conversation to e-mail, or simply come back to in the future with fresher information.
  5. For face-to-face meetings, allow for mental breaks and bio breaks. When at a all-day meeting, typically I can focus intensely for 45 minutes or so, after which my brain will go on a break and wander freely for a few minutes.
  6. Don’t ramble. Don’t hog the microphone. Hear all the voices. You may need to tune how you seek feedback so that people feel confident to speak up.
  7. Share notes after the meeting. Executive summaries are valuable additions to meeting notes, especially if your thoughts are orderly and are at ease with words. Otherwise, my tip is to favour taking short notes and summaries, over verbatim records.

Eiko Nagase also advises to alternate technologies used as part of the collaborative work. I concur, with a note of caution: your choices have to take into account the ability of your team and the effort on-boarding them to a new technology requires.

In the case of my team, I chose to alternate between usual means of collaboration such as e-mail, IRC, wikis, and trying out a new thing, Asana, in order to keep my team’s wit sharp and have them step outside of their habits to tackle some projects from a new angle. We use Asana only when it makes a difference and rarely enough that it does. Otherwise it becomes a hassle and defeats the purpose. We’re not quite ready yet to move our work to Github ;)

I’d like to end with a few more tips regarding getting the best from the people you work with:

  • Know your people. Again, your team, your assets, your luck. 
  • Find out where their inclinations, talents and interests reside; use those. 
  • Follow their work, guide them, help them. This is the opposite of micro-management. 
  • Praise their achievements, appreciate and promote their work. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: