The meeting problems
Most of the companies need meetings, no matter if they’re following Agile or any other methodology. If you’re on the meeting wave you can quickly recognize these issues:
- All your team member’s agendas are flooded with meetings, people struggle to find uninterrupted time slots to do their actual jobs.
- The team is stuck with an ineffective meeting inertia and doesn’t know how to get out of there.
- Meeting participants constantly feel that they would be more productive elsewhere; this is draining the motivation of your team.
There is a lot of available material that you can use to improve your meetings: from books to personal consultancy in form of coaching (e.g. how to improve your Agile ceremonies). This material is the first resource you need: getting to know how to better structure your meetings, organize your agenda, invite the right people, focus on the main topics, etc.
However, nobody is an expert from the beginning. Your company and the meeting organizers need a learning path and make corrections on the way. Moreover, meeting culture is one of the characteristics of a company that is more difficult to change.
You need a way of getting feedback from your team in order to apply the necessary corrections and reach a better meeting culture. And you need some ingredients to make it really valuable:
- You don’t want to waste too much time in getting the feedback, otherwise, you’re even incrementing the inefficiency: the capturing method has to be simple and fast.
- The feedback mechanism shouldn’t encourage negativity; therefore constructive feedback must be leveraged.
- A proper meeting culture cannot be enforced by an individual, it has to come from inside the team: improving the culture is a collaborative task.
- Participants shouldn’t feel the need to be pleasant to the organizer: we need it to be anonymous.
- Nobody should feel audited or stuck with a new boring process: we want it to be informal.
The game as a tool
We (as authors of these cards) have seen in our meeting lives that there are repeated patterns that undermine meeting productivity: there were too many participants, there was no agenda, the meeting went off-topic, etc. In a mature team with good communicators, feedback should flow in a natural way and bad patterns can be fixed quickly. Unfortunately, these teams are not as common as we might imagine.
We grouped the 9 most frequent anti-patterns to improve and made a Meeting Feedback Game out of them: the Agile Meeting Cards. And Agile here should be understood in its wider meaning: flexible, self-assessing, lean, productive.
The game is based on 12 cards, 9 of them are repeatable meeting anti-patterns (improvements suggestions) and the other 3 are “thumbs up” (meaning a positive feedback). Therefore, these are the 12 sentences on the cards:
- The agenda was not clear
- The meeting was not time-boxed
- Not everybody had the chance to participate
- The agenda was not followed – or went off-topic
- Some unnecessary people were invited
- Some required people were not invited
- Not constructive attitude
- Action points are not captured or followed
- Insufficient facilitation or coordination
- Thumbs Up!
- Thumbs Up!
- Thumbs Up!
Each participant of a meeting should provide feedback by drawing 3 cards from their 12-cards deck facing down to the meeting organizer. They can include zero, one, two, or three topics that could be improved for the next meeting. If everything was fine the participant can just pick the three Thumbs Up cards and pass them to the organizer.
It’s extremely important that the game is correctly explained the first time people will play: not only the instructions should be clear but also the goal, the ultimate idea of improving the meeting quality so everybody (organizers and participants) can benefit from it.
Let’s check how this game meets our criteria for the feedback:
- It’s simple and fast: will take less than one minute.
- It’s anonymous: feedback cards are handed facing down and can’t be traced back to people.
- It’s constructive: you can get positive feedback when everything is fine, and phrasing of patterns to be improved is not blaming a specific individual, but helping everybody to improve.
- It’s collaborative: you can get feedback from the whole group and the group can take action to improve.
- It’s informal: the game format makes people more willing to participate.
Evaluating the result
Collecting the cards and having a look at them shouldn’t be the last step of the game. Remember that the game is a tool to reach a goal: steer with corrections to get to a better meeting culture, which is a win-win situation for both company and employees.
If you have the opportunity the best thing you can do with your feedback is trying to fine-grain it: try to have a chat with participants and get their improvement ideas, better before the next session, but you can also use the beginning of next meeting.
In general, you should pay attention to the result and try to find topics that are repeated or related, so they ease your communication with the participants in order to improve the feedback. Don’t try to extract too many conclusions from the result since sentences can have slight differences in several environments. Just get the idea and use them as a tool to facilitate your communication.
Be aware of some signals from which you can conclude that the game is not working, and that can be based on deeper issues you need to fix first. For instance, you could get too many “Some unnecessary people were invited“, almost from the entire group. If you really think the meeting is needed that could be a sign of meeting apathy or alienation and in that case, you should use other tools and have more communication with the group to get the root causes and steer from there.
Getting a deck
If you want to participate in this initiative and pre-order a deck, let us know by using our contact form on this site.