Meetings: what should you be considering?

Meetings. Saying that word often evokes a very specific emotion or reaction. Do you have too many meetings? Too few? Do the meetings you attend lack purpose? How about the ones that you run? I feel like my life philosophy is “everything in moderation” and I feel the same about meetings. Meetings for the sake of meetings is awful. But no meetings can also be awful. They can be used for a variety of purposes, goals, and reasons. I’ll go into more specifics in the future but for now, part of figuring out which meetings may work for you and your team right now is just knowing what kinds of meetings are out there. What kinds of meetings do other teams do? And for what purpose? Here’s my quick list of the useful meetings that I’ve run or attended in the past. Again, these meetings are useful at different times and different “seasons” you team may be in.

  • Retrospectives - a meeting where you look back and look forward to iterate and improve upon a working relationship either within one team or amongst a number of teams
  • Planning meeting - a meeting to look at what’s coming up soon and how that work should be broken down, prioritized, tracked, etc. to get everyone on the same page related to milestones and progress markers.
  • Pre-mortem - a chance for folks to express their worries, fears, concerns, and excitement usually around a larger undertaking coming up and pre-emptively work to address some of those pain points.
  • Post mortem - similar to a retrospective but frequently with a slightly different methodology focusing on trying to dig towards fewer, more specific root causes and related action items
  • Team hang/watercooler - chill time with your team for non-work chit-chat
  • Virtual offsite - Multi-day gathering potentially covering a wide variety of topics and goals. See offsites.
  • Focused brainstorm meeting - A longer meeting (1.5-3 hours, in my experience) focusing on collecting a variety of ideas and frequently driving towards creating strategic alignment for the future. Popular methodologies come from places like the Luma Institute or other interactive facilitation sources.
  • 1:1 meeting - regular time for an individual and their manager to connect.
  • Skip level - regular time for an individual to connect with the manager of their manager
  • Sync meeting - A chance for everyone to get on the same page. This often happens at a regular cadence (ie- weekly or every other week) but may also happen ad hoc
  • Quarterly planning meeting - Similar to a regular planning meeting but focusing on a longer timeframe, looking at and planning for initiatives, epics, and other work planned for an upcoming quarter. This may also happen for an upcoming half depending on your company’s planning preferences and anticipated roadmap iterations.
  • Performance review meeting - A dedicated time to talk more deeply about an individuals performance and provide feedback. Often some level of feedback and performance check-in is happening during 1:1s but performance review meetings usually have a bit more formality and are a dedicated time to dive specifically into performance related strengths and areas of growth.
  • All-hands - regular larger meetings, usually larger than one team (a meeting with a team may be a regular sync or planning meeting). This may be a full department or all-company. The format differs wildly based on the engineering leader planning it and goals of all-hands meetings.

You can read more about meeting cadence by checking out my Manager Tools Repo.

What season is your team in? What do you do? What don’t you do that might be useful? What meetings have you run or attended in the past that you’ve found particularly useful.