Michael Jebber (00:06):
Hello everybody, and welcome to the 43rd issue of Agile Shorts from Agile Meridian. I'm Mike Jer. I'm here with my partner Kumar Data Train. Hey
Kumar Dattatreyan (00:14):
Michael Jebber (00:15):
And we're here to talk about meetings specifically. The Agile type of meetings that you get in frameworks like Scrum, we're gonna refer to kind of, we're Scrum and Agile, kind of this, the same thing in this issue, and use that Scrum framework because those are the common meetings that people are usually talking about or trying to set up and start when they're moving towards a more agile way of working. So the title of this meeting is something that we hear a lot when we're working with folks. And, you know, really the que question is, how am I gonna make all these meetings? You've got this long cadence meetings that you're gonna establish it's really not that many meetings, but because you're putting it on the calendar and you're meeting more frequently, a lot of folks kind of feel like you've just adding all this stuff. So, Kumar, why do you think we get this type of response when folks are introduced to Scrum or Agile and they say, you know, there's this pattern of communication we wanna establish?
Kumar Dattatreyan (01:11):
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think that there's a meeting overload anyway regardless, right? And most companies that we work with you know, pre pandemic currently with the pandemic still, you know, people still being remote, it's been exacerbated to a certain extent the number of meetings that people are in. However, it's always been an issue. Meetings meeting overload, you know, having to go to all these different meetings and then, you know, as a, as an organization starts to adopt Scrum and or some form of Agile they're like, Oh my God, how do I make all these meetings not another meeting? You know? And that's a common refrain, you know? And, and I don't think it's an agile thing, it's just, it's a meeting thing. We just have a lot of meetings.
Michael Jebber (01:56):
Yeah. There are already more meetings than they have time for already. And you come in and say, Well, I'm gonna add these other meetings that you've never done before that have these other purposes. I think a lot of times the message that gets, that get that fails to get communicated or isn't kind of brought along with the idea that we're going to have a new cadence or try, try to meet in different ways. I is the fact that we're, we're, we're looking to try to put more purpose and more meaning into the meetings, and we're trying to create this kind of almost over collaborative situation where we've got folks that are communicating and aligning on a daily basis. Yeah. Instead of just a couple times a week or maybe once a month or during a, or based on a project plan, right?
Kumar Dattatreyan (02:43):
Yeah, that's right. I mean, Agile adds a lot of the Scrum meetings in particular add a lot of structure, Right. And a lot of you know, intended purpose and a cadence behind it. And so, you know, people may not be used to that. It's like, Oh my God, we gotta gotta meet every day.
Michael Jebber (03:05):
. Oh no, we, we, So you froze there slightly. You said, We're gonna meet every day and then you So go ahead.
Kumar Dattatreyan (03:15):
Yeah, I was just saying, you know, when people will start with Agile, it's like, Oh, oh, no, You know, it provides a structure, provides a cadence, but it's like, Oh no, we have to meet every day for standup. We have to meet every two weeks for planning. No, we used to just plan once every project, you know, at the beginning of the project cycle, and then we don't have to worry about it until the end. And so that's, that's the sort of the, the promise and the challenge of the, these agile ceremonies is that they follow a pattern and they establish a cadence, a cadence of accountability and a cadence of of of commitment. Right. And those are good things to have. What, what do you think, Mike?
Michael Jebber (03:54):
Absolutely, and, and I think the first thing, and and this typically does happen, right, is when, when folks are trying to become more agile and they're leveraging something like Scrum and they say, Okay, we've got this grouping of meetings, we're gonna call 'em ceremonies and, and we're gonna use these meetings. They're very purposeful and they have a specific pattern to them in terms of when, how often and how long they are, and what type of things we talk about inside of them. And that's that structure you were talking about. So I think one of the first things is, is to establish that pattern, right? Establish that cadence and, and, and make sure that you've got that down. It may not be the one that you stick with with forever. And there is some simply some simple ones to start with. Kind of, kind of say, say the starter pack of, of, of meetings and ceremonies that you do standups every day, You know, the daily standup or start opening and closing meetings and things that you do when you have an iteration or a sprint.
And, and start with those and start with those, because those are defined to be able to help you collaborate, to move a certain set of work, a certain scope over a shorter period of time to a close to a finish. So they're really gonna help you in that way. I think one of the things that also doesn't accompany that a lot of times is the fact that people don't go back and they don't inventory their meetings that they have today. So you get this, you get this perception and even get a reality in some cases where you have added more meetings because you haven't done anything about the ones you used to use. Some of them you may still need, and some of them you may still not need it. So, so how cobar, how do you recommend kind of attacking that in terms of going after those existing meetings versus this new cadence of ceremonies?
Kumar Dattatreyan (05:34):
Yeah, I'm gonna go back to the, the, the bullet point before, you know, establishing and adhering to a cadence. So the scrum ceremonies are already established and they're already on a cadence. And what we're really talking about here with this bullet point is to look at your other meetings that you have, which of those can be cadenced, if you will, and, and how many of those can be combined so that if it has a similar purpose and a, or a similar outcome, can they be combined where you have a cadence of accountability with whoever attends those meetings, Right? And so we're we're saying that, hey, Agile, the ceremonies, they've, it's a, it's a, it's a tried and true pattern. Having cadence is a, is a way to you know, commit to something and be accountable to what you commit to. And every two weeks you commit to something that you're gonna complete.
And at the end of the two weeks, you review what you've completed, right? So it's, it's a very, it, the, the agenda is already set in, in a way. And so can we use that cadence and can we use that structure for all the other meetings that we have in our work lives? Can we establish that pattern, if you will? And, and the first step of that, of course is to inventory what are all the meetings, other meetings on your calendar that you go to? Is there a clear purpose and a clear outcome laid out? Do you need to be there, and, and it would something happen if you didn't attend? Right? would, would would you miss out or would the the team, the group that you're meeting with miss out with, with, with your absence or without, without you there?
And if, if the answer is unclear, then maybe it's worthwhile asking those questions to the people that organize those meetings. What is the purpose? What is the outcome? And, and really kind of go through your meeting structure, inventory them, and then if they are needed, figure out are there ways to combine them and establish a cadence to them? Just like in the scrum, scrum ceremonies or maybe does it get combined into the scrum stuff because hey, we, we used to meet for planning, you know, every, every week and now we have this planning meeting for our team. Do we really need the planning meeting anymore, Right?
Michael Jebber (07:50):
Kumar Dattatreyan (07:50):
, what, what do you think, Mike?
Michael Jebber (07:53):
Yeah, I, I totally agree. And, and in fact, which of these meetings can we get rid of? Which of them no longer serve any value or purpose? Which one of them never really served a value or purpose, right? To your point. And the, the interesting thing about establishing a cadence and purpose around those meetings is they take less time to do, You can have a 15 minute productive meeting versus an hour to get 15 minutes worth of work done. And you save mountains and mountains of time. You see people, we, you and I see people every week that we work with and, and over the years that have had 30 to 40 to 50% or even more of their calendar occupied by meetings. And you go, What can you be meeting on? That's, that's how much work can you actually have if you're always meeting?
How much work can you actually get done? When you look at a typical, a typical scrum cadence within a three, if you had a three week scrum and you just took the, the flat out the base ceremonies, including refinement of the stories, right? Which isn't truly Scrum, but good practitioners use it, that's 16% of your time over that, over that time period. Three weeks, you're going from 50 or 40 or 30% to 16%. Now, the complimentary part of that is what do you, how do you handle things that are outside of those meetings and Right. So the complimentary part of that is a lot of this work that we, we know through the last 20 plus years that a lot of this work can be done asynchronously. And that you can actually get a lot of those things either done or even the prepping you and me prepping for the meeting.
We're gonna have our standard today. You and I gotta talk about an issue we have. We're gonna prep asynchronously for it. So when we get into the meeting, it goes like that. We don't have to spend half an hour on it. It takes two minutes to present and it takes two minutes to figure out when, who's gonna get together on that and when we're gonna meet and what we're gonna talk about and how long we're gonna talk about it. And you're done. You just save amounts of time and calendars open up. We call it the, the calendar the calendar Doy doe, right? We get out of doing that calendar rodeo that we all are used to and trying to find a place six weeks from now, we can actually all get together. No, just do it asynchronously, get together, talk about the topic. Since we already have a cadence of meetings set up and we know what those meetings are for, we know the next time we can talk about it. Cause we're all gonna be there. We're already committed to
Kumar Dattatreyan (10:10):
Yeah, you can sort of build your agenda asynchronously. So when you do meet, you can discuss the actions or discuss the decisions that need to be made, but based on the asynchronous conversations that you've had. Yeah. Cadence builds so much capacity for teams. It really, it really does. Having that cadence. And I, I don't know about you, but for, for us at at ASRA Meridian, the cadence that we've established has really helped us. I mean, we're all remote from each other. Mm-Hmm. last week was the first time we were in the same room together forever. Right. It's it's since
Michael Jebber (10:45):
Kumar Dattatreyan (10:47):
Right. And, and it was the first chance that I had to meet Chris. And, and first time I've met you in two years, Mike, and first time I've seen jolly in, in probably a year. So it was, that's a luxury for us. And so establishing cadence for us was super critical. And then building our agenda asynchronously has allowed us to stay in sync, synchronicity with each other and, and continue to make progress towards our goals. So absolutely. I, I think asynchronous is here to stay, right? We're all remote. And so we, we do this naturally now anyway, the teams that I work with, and I'm sure the wor the ones you work with, we're doing this all the time. What we're not doing is carrying those asynchronous conversations into our meetings because the meetings aren't cadenced, right? They're not related to what we're talking about necessarily. And so that's the challenge for all of you who are struggling to find time to meet, make all of these meetings. And on top of that, make the actual ceremonies is figure out a, a a balance between cadence and a Synchron asynchronicity, you know, in terms of conversations.
Michael Jebber (11:57):
Absolutely. Yes. And, and you can asynchronously problem solve. You could asynchronously plan for a topic for a ceremony. You can do pairs. We talk about pairing in the software world, but it works outside the software world. Just pairing on a topic. Yeah. the group I'm working with right now would do a really good job since they've gotten together and using a dri structure of pairing outside of their ceremonies. And they meet this one group meets for an hour each week, and they have been able to align their entire value stream and keep it aligned with one hour of, of synchronized time together. They do four pat four patronistic things inside of their meeting, and they do those same four every single time and very rarely have anyone miss. And what it does is it frees up all this other time, and they feel much more comfortable in just working asynchronously because they know that others are doing the same thing. And that if there's a need for anything that you could always call an ad hoc for something that's incredibly serious, or, or it's very, it's high, high importance or critical of timing you can always pull that end on cord and stop the engine and go and meet. Right? That's another asynchronous trigger to a cadence structure. Right? Right.
Kumar Dattatreyan (13:13):
Yeah. There's nothing that stops you from doing that, from having a, an ad hoc meeting to discuss something because it's of high importance. But if it doesn't need to then stick with your cadence. Right. I think the last bit that we're gonna talk about, and actually before we go there I just wanted to mention a book by Patrick Cleone, who's written a lot of business fables. I think his most famous book is that Find Dysfunctions of the Teen. There's another book that isn't quite as well known, at least I don't think it is. It's called Death by Meeting
Michael Jebber (13:46):
Kumar Dattatreyan (13:46):
And he wrote this, he wrote this 10, 12 years ago. But in the book, he talks about all the things that we're talking about and experiencing every day, and he proposes this very simple structure. And it's very similar to what we're talking about here. And, and maybe, maybe what we're talking about here is because it's so similar, it's because it makes sense, It's common sense to us. And what he talks about is cadence and structure to your meetings and separating strategy from tactics, right? So for your team is having strategic meetings maybe once a quarter and having sort of a mix between strategy and tactics once a month, and then having a weekly tactical only meeting, right? Again, you notice there's a cadence there. Every quarter you're gonna talk strategy. Every month you're gonna sort of review the progress that you and your team have made in support of that strategy. And every week you're talking about the tactics that help you get there, help you get to that, your, your monthly goal or your quarterly goal, whatever it might be. And so a lot of what we're talked about here is in that book, Right? Death by meeting. And, and, and, and he writes fabulously you know, he writes it as a business fable. So there are characters in the book and you know, you, you tend to identify with them because we've all been there before. So good book recommendations,
Michael Jebber (15:09):
Like the Phoenix Project, Right, exactly. Where they exactly. Made it from a, from a real reals perspective, Right?
Kumar Dattatreyan (15:14):
Michael Jebber (15:16):
And this, this idea though, of going back and kind of inspecting your meetings, like you ca like you kaizen other things. I have a group right now that's been doing this and actually it was interesting. The the HR representative in, in this dri kind of came up with the structure and everybody, when they first kind of did it, they, they were like, when she introduced it, it was kinda like, Oh, this sounds corny. Sounds a little ridiculous. We gotta take up part of our meeting time to talk about how good the meeting went. I mean, really. But when they started to get really effective and efficient through the leveraging of a cadence, and they were all this other time they weren't, they, they, they started to have more time in the same meeting to talk about other things because things just, there was less waste, there was less spinning.
Everybody knew what they came prepared and we got things done. We didn't waste any time. And at the end of every meeting, still to this day, it happened today as a matter of fact that we get at the end and we're all on a teams call and we all kind of put a number into our chat and she says, Go 3, 2, 1, go. And we all send our numbers. Like, we're like, we're doing a fist to five, right? Yeah. And everybody in the order that the numbers showed up, she goes through and says, Okay Kumar, you gave the meeting is six, Why'd you give it a six? And everybody kind of just, and actually it's a lot of fun. But the other thing is, and you and I were talking about this earlier, it's a definitive end to the meeting. Yeah. It actually happens at the, it's like a, it's like everybody knows it's coming.
It's the bookend, it's the chapter close, it's the conclusion of every meeting and you end it and we're done and we all leave. And we don't, we don't go too long cuz we gotta fit it in. We, it, it actually keeps the, the scope within the meeting, inside the box, everybody leaves at the same time. We don't drag on or roll over and then have people drop out before we've done it. It, it actually keeps things very, very very symmetrical, but very effective. And it also helps us to be better. There's meetings. It also puts a little bit of pressure on everybody to be there, to be there on time, to be prepared. Because at the end of every meeting we're grading the meeting and the grade also comes on, Hey, we only had to have the team today, so I gave it a four. Where's everybody? Right? What the heck? And, and people, and people can see it. It's on the team's thread, right? So it, it's, they can go back and read it. They'll see it the next time that meeting comes up. So it's actually, it's fun, it's effective. It's a little corny when you first started out, but I can tell you there's a lot of good corny things that actually become a lot of fun when you start enjoying your job and you start getting effective.
Kumar Dattatreyan (17:45):
Yeah, that reminds me of the core protocols. Because a lot of those core protocols for, you know, creating high performing teams are corny when you first start to do them, do them. But they're also fun. You know, it's sort of like a, a, a habit, a ritualistic habit. You get into, you know, when you check in for a meeting or a check in with your team or, or, or whatever the protocol is, right? It gets a little corny, but people have fun with it and it becomes part of the culture of the team and, and, and leads to higher performance. And, and meetings are no different. Meetings are typically attended by the same people. And you, you tend to form a camaraderie with, with that group of people, right? It's typically for the team, maybe there are other people involved, but it's typically for the team. And so making them as fun as you can and then ki using a kaizen moment like this to evaluate, Hey, how do we do? It's, it's it's a great thing to do. And a great, to your point, a great way to end the meeting. So on that note, Mike, how do you feel about our, our agile short?
Michael Jebber (18:48):
Just I'd give it, I'd give it an eight. I'd give it higher. If we were shorter, we went too long on our short. But other than that, I think it was good content. And I think I think hopefully folks will look into figuring out how to implement a few of these things into their cadence and how to build a better cadence. Yeah. And I'm getting rid of some of those meetings that don't matter.
Kumar Dattatreyan (19:11):
Yeah, I'm with you. I, I think about an eight as well. And in the show notes below, we'll have some links to Dri and Mike mentioned dri a couple times, so we'll have a link in as to what that is. And a link to a a, a pdf download where you can, you can get these steps, you know, that the to-dos that we discussed today. So thanks everyone for watching, and thank you next time. Thanks, Mike.
Michael Jebber (19:37):
Thank you. Have a great.
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I thought #agile meant less meetings! (Completed 10/28/22)
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