Right now, everything is different due to COVID-19. Even before the COVID-19 meetings were often seen as the one tool to fix all sorts of problems. Meetings can have value if you have a clear agenda and people get prepared before the meeting which never happens so meetings tend to bring lots of waste and kill engineering productivity because it becomes flow killer. The reason why meetings are a goto tool for every kind of problem because it’s easier, however, the price is high: Affects Engineering productivity because it’s an interruption and often things dont get done and you need more meetings. So you might be wondering what we can do about it, well there is plenty of things we can do about but in order for any solution to work we need to have Discipline which is hard, that’s why lots of meetings continue to happen. I’m and always was a huge Chat fan. In the past, I used Skype, Atlassian Hipchat, Teams, and Slack for the last 6 years these tools are great because they allow us to do things asynchronously and it’s one way to keep meetings away. However, you need to have the culture to work with chat oriented. Several times it’s possible to slack generates more noise. So you need to mind how you design the channels what and who is what channel because is easy to become a huge interruption factory. I’m culprit on that since I’m always throwing lots of links on Slack. :-) The issue with slack is no Boddy thinks of it as an async tool but as an online quick answer.
Async chat like Slack
IMHO in theory slack could kill 90% of your meetings. There are kinds of meetings that are super important like 1:1, retrospectives, planning with often does not make sense to kill. There are several meetings on-demand that could easily be a slack chat. So getting the mindset is hard because we are so used to it but once you get it is hard to come back. Having meetings it also could be a form of command and control since old school mgmt does not trust chats and old dogs do not learn new tricks. However, there is value in some meetings especially if we are talking about something highly complex, however, get into a meeting without a virtual whiteboard or google docs to draw something it could be super challenging.
Blogging & Wiki
IMHO Blogs and Wikis are amazing tools and people dont give enough credit for it because people often just see as “documentation”. When you are in a small company it’s easy to repeat things a couple of times but when you are in a big one this becomes unbearable. Blogs / Wikis are your ultimate tool to kill meetings because they make you scale. In order to work you need 2 hard things. First is that they need to be up-to-date and people need to read it. That’s could be a hard one, often people do not like to read and asking for a meeting is much more comfortable. There are techniques you can apply in order to make your wiki blogs to live longer and be more up-to-date like:
* Have pictures and drawings about architecture and design (which you can’t find in code).
* Do not write things too soon, as things might change it would be deprecated soon.
* Write down: Goals/Objectives, principles, and high-level details.
* Avoid document class-by-class, function-by-function in the wiki blog. Use Javadocs for it.
* Clean things time to time, IF you do kanban it could be a Queue Policy.
You need to start seeing that Blogs and Wikis are a powerful tool to remove repetition and gain your time again so you can be productive and get things done.
Talent is what matters most, smart people can figure out things more quickly and make better calls. That’s what you need most. It does not work out and has just 1 super architecture, you need to heave a team with great engineers. So you do not get talent go away, retaining talent is your number #1 goal, process and talent are opposite forces according to Netflix if you have more talent, less process you need and therefore fewer meetings you need. So IMHO lots of meetings could be a proof or smell that you few talents in your team or company.
Poorly Run Ceremonies
The question is why are we having a meeting?
* Because the manager needs to know whats going on? (Status)
* Because some engineer does not know what to do? (Planning)
* Questions about a user story? (Grooming)
* Because we disagree with something and there is a conflict to resolve? (Retrospective)
* Because we dont know the best solution? (Design Session)
So often there is a ceremony for these things why are we talking afterward, well there are stories that are complex and make sense talk more. But my point here is we dont take enough value from ceremonies and guess what? we need to have meetings. So one efficient way to reduce meetings is to run ceremonies well. The number #1 reason why these ceremonies get poorly executed IMHO is lack of preparation. So if you do your homework we can run better ceremonies and therefore reduce meetings afterward.
Better Tooling Awareness
So I would not write “better tooling” because we often have the tools but do we need how to use it? There are amazing tools like GitHub, Eclipse/IntelliJ/Vscode, Linux bash/zsh, do we know how to use these tools properly and effectively, or do we book meetings to ask people stuff we could answer ourselves with a simple script or search?
IMHO doing lighting talks about tools that make engineers more efficient is often a good idea and people tend not to think about these things because they are “too basic”. Sometimes the small little things can do great impact so you need to consider it.
Meetings often are a better thing because in the IT industry they are used for all the problems all the time. Using Slack chat, Blogging/Wiki, Having a great talent pool, running the ceremonies well and knowing your tools could help you to reduce the number of meetings and be more productivity and the cool thing about it is you can do by your self you dont need to convince your team or somebody else.
Originally published at http://diego-pacheco.blogspot.com on April 26, 2020.