How can meetings be made more effective and efficient? In our own experience, we all spend too much time in meetings that add no value to their participants or the business: Status Meetings, Reports and "Alignments". Meetings often end without results - decisions, work results or clear plans are usually postponed or not held at all.
Which meetings are worthwhile at all and why?
From our point of view, there is one meeting that is always worthwhile - and yet is often neglected: the retrospective. Even though the agile movement has strongly coined the term, this is neither about agility nor Scrum. The focus is on a method that ensures the continuous improvement of processes and collaboration: reflection.
Even in companies where teams work in an agile manner, this type of meeting is often underestimated or its potential is not exploited: While there is apt analysis of what is not working well, changes are rarely derived or even implemented from this. It seems as if, with all the work, there is no time to lift one's head and think about how it could be made more efficient - in the spirit of the oft-quoted lumberjack who said, "Sharpen the axe? I didn't have time to do that; I was too busy cutting down trees."
How do professional athletes use reflection?
A particularly impressive example of the added value of strategically deployed retrospectives is the pit stop in Formula 1, which is a decisive factor for success in the race. After the car has come to a standstill, the best crews and drivers manage - perfectly choreographed - to change four tires, make adjustments and set off again at the right moment in under two seconds. And that's under ever-changing conditions: Every pit lane is different, the weather varies, and the race strategy is tailored specifically to the track. The process and the interaction are reflected on again and again and adjusted, reflected on again, adjusted and trained until the crew manages to deliver world-class times in a race situation under pressure.
How can that be applied from sports to the business world?
There is no need for perfect choreographies or a globally unique team. A one-hour meeting every two or even four weeks is enough for continuous improvements in the company.
For the retrospective, team members, including managers, meet regularly to reflect. Everyone is invited to point out problems as well as successes. What is going well? What is going wrong? How can we improve? The management sees and understands bottlenecks and slowing processes immediately and empowers the team to work out and decide for themselves how to deal with them. Transparency is created and it becomes clear where support is needed or which tools and aids are missing.
It is crucial for the success of retrospectives that the process goes beyond analyzing problems. Changes must be developed and implemented - in order to critically scrutinize them in one of the following retrospectives and, if necessary, adapt, change or discard them again. In order for these changes to last and be purposeful for the entire team, it is essential that its members lead the process of questioning and adapting independently and on their own responsibility.
The most important meeting
So what does this mean for all the other meetings? For all the status updates, reports and "alignments"? Again, retrospective is an ideal way to evaluate their effectiveness. Which meetings are helpful? Which is wasting the time or could be valuable in a modified form? Let the team reflect and decide!
In our opinion, the retrospective is a decisive factor for success in the race - it is the most important meeting!