• By Steven Wallace

Laptops and unproductive meetings

After spending a lot of time with people from many different departments in various meetings, I’ve noticed that nearly everyone comes to the meeting with their laptop. Later they comment that the meeting was not very productive. Is it really necessary to bring the laptop?

We sometimes think that if we are not “connected” at all moments, we are going to miss something important. If we are in a meeting that lasts for an hour, we have to be connected, especially if we are responsable for an area or team.

Boring meeting Do you have boring meetings?

People at many companies I’ve been to complain about long, unproductive meetings. Maybe we sit there during the meeting reading mails, answering them, chatting via whatever is the company tool for messaging and many other things. How about actually contributing to the meeting? If the meeting is not productive, why not state that to the person that organised it at the end and suggest some improvement? Is it necessary that you are present all of the time? Should it be time-boxed better? Is it being facilitated correctly? Are you paying attention when you should be?

Who has to improve the situation?

I believe that the usefulness of a meeting depends on everyone there, not just whoever called it. If you are not contributing anything and it doesn’t contribute anything to you, should you be there at all?

In Scrum, when we first explain to people there are several meetings, they are aghast. “So many meetings!” they cry. However in Scrum, every meeting has a time-box, a purpose and a clear expected output. There is also a dedicated facilitator to ensure they go well. They are very rarely unproductive and in the case that they are, the retrospective is the place to bring that up and everyone is encouraged to try to improve the way of working (it’s even been brought up in a retrospective that the retrospective was not useful...)

Let’s try to improve how we work, whether it is in Agile or not. Meetings can be productive and useful. The next time you are about to go into one, remember do you really need your laptop in the meeting?



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