Storms on the horizon!

In whatever flavor of agile that you are doing, meetings and ceremonies are lightning rods for resistance. In response, numerous approaches for improving the scenario have sprung up. Most of the tweaks or go-to techniques are a reflection of teams, coaches, guides, and Scrum Masters being agile and are great ideas for the situations a team might find itself in; a few, however, are bad ideas (perhaps for good reasons but bad nevertheless).

Three antipatterns I implore you to avoid

  1. The Terminator – Not doing a ceremony because no one likes it. Identify the root cause of the problem and address that before pulling the plug on any of the core meetings in Scrum (or other frameworks). I once chatted with a Scrum Master that just stopped doing retrospectives because the team never found anything they could improve. Upon closer inspection, the problem was a lack of training in how to facilitate retrospectives rather than the team being perfect.
  2. The Inviter – Adding people to a standing meeting should never be the first answer for a team that can’t come to a consensus or get planning done. Much in the same vein as Fred Brooks proved in his essay, The Mythical Man-month, adding more people to a broken meeting will only make things worse.  Often planning meetings that can’t get done or can’t reach a consensus are reflections of other problems, The root cause may be poor training, lack of preparation, or a need for help with facilitation.
  3. The Time Sink – Adding extra time to ceremonies that chronically can’t be completed within the time-box suggested in the Scrum Guide will obscure other problems and suck up even more time that can be better used. Root causes can be team size, lack of empowerment, meeting prep, or even poor facilitation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for meeting antipatterns. Before you do something that may make things worse, find and address the root cause the problem. Get help if needed to find the root cause. Andrew Jarr, Scrum Master at iovation put it perfectly:

“A team that complains about spending too much time in meetings and can’t deliver triggers a discussion around how meetings can be more effective.  What value are we trying to get out of the meetings we have, and how good are we at getting that value?  What can change to get to that value?”

Andrew used the analogy of a mechanic listening to a car engine to find where things are out of balance and then to lead the team in inspecting and adapting. Finding a solution may require adding energy and ideas from outside of the team; however, step one is identifying the issue and talking about it. 

Next: After Listening, What Have Others Done To Ease Meeting Time Resistance?