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Guidelines for how to run effective meetings and descriptions of various meeting types.

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General Meeting Guidelines

  • Avoid unnecessary meetings. Meetings are time-consuming, expensive and leave less time for periods of focused, uninterrupted work.
  • Most meetings are unnecessary. Never schedule a meeting when email, IM or a quick video chat or phone call will do.
  • Use asynchronous communication wherever possible Prefer, in this order: chat or IM > individual phone/video calls > meetings or video chats > conference calls
  • All meetings start and end on time. Be respectful of your colleagues' and our partners' time and don't keep them waiting. Meetings should also end on time. Not having an end time leads to conversations that are rambling and aimless instead of focused and actionable.
  • All meetings should have a clearly stated purpose. We don't have meetings just for the sake of having a meeting. An agenda distributed ahead of time is even better.
  • Invite as few people as possible. For the same reason you don't reply all to an email chain.
  • Respect each individual's contribution. Since everyone at the meeting needs to be there (see above), give everyone an equal chance to speak. Don't dominate the conversation, interrupt or talk over people. Be especially careful to involve people who might not typically speak up.
  • Test technology ahead of time. If we're going to use a video chat or screensharing tool, make sure it works ahead of time so we don't spend half of the meeting wrestling with the technology.
  • Change the default meeting length in Google Calendar or iCal to 15 minutes instead of an hour. Meetings almost never need to be an hour and blocking out large chunks of time in your colleagues' calendars is annoying and disrespectful.
  • All meetings end with concrete action steps assigned to responsible individuals. No exceptions.

Meeting Types

Daily Scrum

  • Every weekday at 10 AM ET
  • Uses the Zoom link from the recurring event invite on the team Google calendar
  • Starts on time, no exceptions
  • Never longer than 10 minutes
  • Literally stand up
  • Scrum Master is a bot! We use Geekbot to collect individual updates:
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • Do you have any blockers? (i.e. - anything keeping you from accomplishing what you need to do today) The team works together in Slack to schedule any necessary follow-up and/or remove blockers.

It's important to acknowledge anything keeping you from accomplishing your tasks and make the team aware of them so we can try to help; don't be shy!

No detailed discussion of issues during this meeting. You can always stay on the call with one or more team members to discuss projects or issues after the daily scrum is completed or take the discussion to chat.

Daily Scrumbot

We use Geekbot to run end-of-day automated checkins. Here's the question set we're currently running with, as of March 2020, but we change it up as needed.

  • Which issues/tasks did you work on today, and what is their current status?
  • Which issues/tasks are awaiting review from someone else on the team?
  • Which issues, tasks, or projects are currently blocked? If so why, and by whom?
  • What needs to be accomplished tomorrow?
  • What might not be done tomorrow but needs to get done this week?
  • Any questions on deadlines, milestones, or priorities? (Make sure to @mention someone on the team!)
  • Is anything blocking you from getting work done? (Make sure to @mention someone on the team!)
  • Give a shoutout!

We also use Geekbot for end-of-week check-ins:

  • What went well?
  • What didn't go so well and how can we avoid this going forward?
  • What have you learned?
  • What still puzzles you?
  • What do you need to do your best work? Is it something you can create or do you need help? (Make sure to @mention.)
  • What 1 thing will you do differently next week?
  • Do you have any planned time off next week?

The bot DMs us these questions at a set time, in a conversational UI format, and then posts them to a specific channel that we keep for these standups: #00-tech-standup

Weekly Planning

  • Replaces daily scrum every Monday
  • Uses the Zoom link from the recurring event invite on the team Google calendar
  • Leadership team meets at 9:45 before the rest of the team joins
  • During this time we will review priorities and assignments for the week and update Forecast/GitHub/HelpScout to make sure everyone has a clear set of tasks defined for the week (login required)
  • We will also discuss new clients/prospects, projects kicking off, important deadlines for the week, etc.
  • The rest of the team joins at 10 am ET
  • Meeting begins with a review of the roadmap for the week, important deadlines, top priorities, etc.
  • Scrum then proceeds as normal

Weekly Recap Meeting

  • Replaces daily scrum every Friday (at 10:00 AM ET)
  • Uses the Zoom link from the recurring event invite on the team Google calendar
  • Limited to 20 minutes

Each team member, in about a minute:

  • Your main accomplishments this week
  • What did you learn?
  • Blockers/issues to resolve so you can start strong next week

As a team (no more than 5 minutes):

  • What went well this week? What could be improved?
  • Review editorial calendar and rotating responsibilities for the following week, make sure everyone knows what's due and when
  • New project ideas
  • Shoutouts
  • Additional agenda items as raised in Slack

Team leader (no more than 5 minutes):

  • General administrative updates

Project Kickoff Meetings

For each new project we'll have a brief kickoff meeting involving key members of our team working on the project as well as any key stakeholders. These meetings don't need to be long, but they should give us an opportunity to make sure everyone is clear on the goals of the project and that we have what we need to write the project manifesto and get started.

  • Confirm timeline, budget, key milestones, communication process
  • Do we have all credentials for third-party services we might need?
  • What is the mission statement for the project? What problem are we solving?
  • Who is it for? What do the key users need?
  • How will we make it? Are there any technical limitations we need to take into account?
  • What does the minimum viable product need to include? What would be nice to have?
  • How will we measure success?

Here's a complete description of our process when taking on new projects.

Project Retrospective Meetings

  • Typically 15-20 minutes in length
  • Held as soon as practical after a project launches while it's still fresh in our minds
  • We want to celebrate our successes but also learn from our mistakes and improve our process for next time. This means that these meetings need to be a safe place to talk openly about what went well, but especially where we ran into problems.

We should cover:

  • Outstanding/backlog issues and our plan for tackling them
  • What went well?
  • What issues did we encounter?
  • How will we improve next time?

Bi-weekly All INN Staff Meeting

  • Every other Tuesday via Zoom (link in the shared Google Calendar invite)
  • Usually takes about 30 minutes
  • Mandatory for all full-time INN staff. Hourly staff and contractors may attend in some cases, but typically won't need to. Your supervisor will let you know if your attendance is required.
  • Updates are relayed in Slack via Geekbot prompts then agenda items are voted on to discuss during our meeting.

Additional Reading