Everyone's talking about meetings again
Also how Figma builds product
Housekeeping note: I am transitioning this newsletter to be more of a “best of” summary of what I posted on the Elezea blog during the previous week. It’s going to be the same content you know (although curated down a bit), so no need to do anything. But in case some of you want to switch to following the blog instead, there are multiple ways to subscribe, including an email option.
It seems like the topic of meetings is on everyone’s minds again as we start the year. Will Larson has some good perspective from the engineering org viewpoint:
Some engineers develop a strong point of view that meetings are a waste of their time. There’s good reason for that perspective, as many meetings are quite bad, but it’s also a bit myopic: meetings can also be an exceptionally valuable part of a well-run organization. If you’re getting feedback that any given meeting isn’t helpful, then iterate on it, and consider pausing it for the time being. It may not be useful for your organization yet, but don’t give up on the idea of meetings. Good meetings are the heartbeat for your organization.
He goes on to recommend six core meetings for every organization to start with. The “weekly team meeting” is one I’ve become a fan of as well. Getting the entire team on a call every week has the potential for being a giant time-waster, so getting the purpose right and facilitating it tightly is essential here. For us, the purpose is:
See each other’s faces at least once a week. I wasn’t sure if the team would feel like this goal is a waste of time, but it absolutely is not. Since we’re all remote, “let’s just chat for a bit” is such a great way to start the week.
Discuss blockers/issues. This is not a status meeting where everyone goes around the room and tells us where they’re at. We have an agenda in Google Docs that anyone can add to. The goal is to bring up any issues that the team is struggling with so that we can all figure out the best way to help.
Company updates. This is also the opportunity for the leadership team to make sure the entire team has all the information and context they need to do their work effectively.
There’s one more thing about this that I highly recommend: every meeting is facilitated by a different team member. We have a schedule that we cycle through with a clear guide on what it means to facilitate—and of course, an option to opt out. This keeps the meetings interesting and everyone invested.
Speaking of meetings… In You can’t just cancel 76,500 hours of meetings Becky Kane makes some good points about the context of meetings within an async culture:
Reducing meetings is just one piece of creating an async-first culture.
She gives some examples of other pieces that are harder but even more important in having a lasting impact on engagement and productivity:
Decentralizing decision-making so people don’t have to wait for permission and deliberation before acting
Delineating clear areas of responsibility so people feel individual ownership to move work forward
You can read the post for the other examples, they’re all very good! As with most of these kinds of topics it’s really valuable to think about them not in isolation, but as a system. It’s not about whether meetings are good or bad, it’s about how meetings fit into the culture and system of planning and delivery that the organization operates in.
→ Also on the blog: When meetings are outlawed, only outlaws will hold meetings.
I enjoyed this post by Yuhki Yamashita (CPO at Figma) about how design is always “Work in Progress,” and how to deal with that:
Our work never feels done because it isn’t. Our collaborators jump in and out of files, leaving feedback and iterating on designs while we’re creating them. Many of us can ship whenever, so it’s hard to know when new designs are actually ready. It’s the chaotic reality of modern product design and development.
He gives some really good recommendations for how to work in this type of world where nothing is ever quite “done”. The post also introduced me to the concept of flashtags, which I quite like. It comes from Hubspot (See FlashTags: A Simple Hack For Conveying Context Without Confusion), and it’s a way for leaders to indicate how strongly they feel about the feedback they’re giving:
#fyi means there’s no hill to die on.
#suggestion means they’ve seen the hill but don’t feel strongly enough to commit the energy to climb it. Take it or leave it.
#recommendation means the hill was climbed. They thought about dying on it, but walked back down.
And finally, #plea means that they do, in fact, want to die on the hill. So if you see this flashtag, you better make sure it’s prioritized!
And finally, speaking of Yuhki… I am not really a podcast person, but I really enjoyed his recent interview on: An inside look at how Figma builds product.
More from the blog this week:
Collaborative Product Strategy Development: A Case Study. I posted the 4-part newsletter series on Product Strategy as a blog post. If you think anyone in your network might find it useful, please share!
The state of product and design content in 2023: “meme content wins”.
Some stray links
🪐 The Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022 Winners are out.
🎵 Did the Music Business Just Kill the Vinyl Revival? “On an aggregate level, consumers are simply not buying music. They prefer to stream it for pennies rather than purchase it for dollars.”
💸 How Do Big Tech Giants Make Their Billions? I know infographics are so 2000s, but this comparison data is super interesting.
📱 This week’s useful app → Readow provides book recommendations powered by AI.
🤨 This week’s WTF Link → The lights have been on at a Massachusetts school for over a year because no one can turn them off. “The lighting system was installed at Minnechaug Regional High School when it was built over a decade ago and was intended to save money and energy. But ever since the software that runs it failed on Aug. 24, 2021, the lights in the Springfield suburbs school have been on continuously, costing taxpayers a small fortune.”
👴 This week’s Gen X link → Remembering horse_ebooks in the age of GPT3. “it’s this fear of the uncanny which i think drove the negative response to the discovery that horse_ebooks was actually no longer a bot at all. more than the disgust at feeling like you’d been played in service of a viral marketing campaign, the deeper sense that a future is coming where it won’t be possible to reliably tell the difference between bot activity and human activity lay underneath that negative reaction. and ten years later - that future is here.”
Thank you for the summary posts on Substack! I enjoy your summary of the week. Meeting facilitation is important- thank you for the articles!