4 Tips for Modernizing Meetings in 2019

By J. Elise Keith, January 15, 2019

We just rang in 2019, yet many managers will walk into a meeting that seem identical to the meetings they’ve held in 2018. New year, same tired routine. What these managers may not realize is that the old approach to meetings, where someone talks the team to sleep each week, is quickly becoming unacceptable.

Innovative companies are ditching their boring meetings and adopting more effective practices. Two factors driving revolution throughout the modern workplace also demand a new way of meeting: digitalization and VUCA.

Meetings in the Digital Workplace

The rise of digital technology has obvious affects on meetings. We no longer need to travel and rarely pass around printed reports. Paperless virtual meetings are now common, and for some companies, the only option.

Digitalization also changes how teams work during a meeting.

Before email and other online communications, it made sense for teams to gather to hear what their colleagues were doing. One-way monologues were never thrilling, but they were the easiest way to share information in the past.

Now teams post updates online. Between all the chatter created by our co-workers and the constant influx of news from the outside world, the challenge shifts from distributing information to sifting through it all to figure out what matters.

Tip 1: Trade information sharing for sense making.

Managers must learn to ask great questions. Teams make sense of all this information not by passively listening, but by actively debating the answers to skillful questions. The always-on barrage of updates and infotainment creates workers who are always learning (bright side!) and highly distractible. Heraclitus’s river has become a flood, leaving many people with a fragile grasp on the team’s boat. A 90-minute meeting once per week is too long to hold anyone’s attention, and too infrequent to ensure the team stays connected.

Tip 2: Hold shorter, more frequent meetings. Pair daily stand-ups with a short weekly meeting. Most full-time teams find that a short meeting for quickly confirming daily plans and a weekly meeting for checking alignment and priorities works best. This pattern is common to both agile development teams and high-performance leadership teams. Remote teams take streamlining further by running the stand-up in a chat app.

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