Have you ever been in a project that felt like meeting overload, and nothing was getting done? Or been in a project with no meetings and hardly any communication? How do you find the right balance, maximize the team’s time, and making sure the project moves forward and meets its deadlines?
Unfortunately, we’ve all been there. We are halfway through a meeting, and it’s unclear why we are there or what is getting accomplished. I recall a meeting set up by a team member where we all sat there for 10 minutes past the start time with no agenda and no meeting leader. We all just looked at each other on unsure what we should do until I suggested a standard policy of ‘if the leader does not show up by 10 minutes past, then we cancel and reschedule the meeting.’ We all agreed, and we rescheduled the meeting.
While this might be an extreme example, sitting around waiting on purpose or information or direction when you could be doing something else is just not the best way to spend your day and can really frustrate team members. So how can we try and make life easier? By setting meeting cadence for both virtual and in-person meetings to help save time and increase efficiency. So, what is meeting cadence, and why is it so important?
Simply put, meeting cadence is an agreed-upon preset of rules so that everyone knows going into a meeting what to do – whether they are the leader or just an attendee. Meeting cadence goes beyond meeting schedule and sets an identified pattern with protocol to establish flow and rhythm for your team’s meetings, whether for a project or a department or even across the company. The pattern varies depending on the project, purpose, timeframe, and the number of people. Cadence sets the frequency, duration, agenda, roles, next steps, and overall expectations for each meeting.
The purpose is to help ensure the team is on the same page and helps to clarify next steps. There are many successful meetings that reoccur on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. The key to the right cadence is knowing what works well with your team and project.
So how do you know what the right cadence is?
Determine meeting frequency
- Review the project and team size.
- Review the location. Can you be on site? Are you all virtual? Is it hybrid?
- Review the purpose. Does it make sense to meet once a week? Does it make more sense to meet twice a week to stay on the same page?
- Agree on a timeframe. The meeting can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes, etc.
- What is the urgency to meet? Can an email or a phone call suffice in some instances instead of getting the team together?
- Use past experiences of the team to help plan and strategize what meeting frequency would work best.
Determine the meeting type
- Is there a project manager or manager that is leading the meeting, or is it roundtable with status updates?
- Short 15-minute daily meetings? Once-a-week meeting? The frequency will contribute to the format and determine if it will be a quick status meeting or if it will be a longer discussion.
- Agree on regular meetings as well as one-off meetings and how they should be handled.
Determine the protocol
- Discuss start time and guidelines. For example, if the leader doesn’t join by 10 min after we start, will we continue the meeting or reschedule the meeting? If the leader doesn’t join, then someone else leads the meeting, etc.
- Recording of meetings. Determine if you will be recording the meetings or not.
- Set up an agenda prior to the meeting as needed. Reoccurring meetings might have the same agenda each week.
- Determine if there is a set process or protocol where you work that you should follow. For example, do all departments in your organization hold daily scrums or weekly project reviews?
- Determine roles. It takes a team to maximize the value of meetings. Someone should take notes, someone should set up and start the meeting, someone needs lead the meeting, etc.
- Agree on next steps. For example, will action items be sent out after the meeting with the agreed-upon completion timeframe?
Once you decide on a schedule, try to stick to the schedule. However, if it’s not working out, you should regularly re-evaluate and adjust the cadence to meet the team needs. Do not be afraid to change things up as needed to better fit your needs.
Meeting cadence is something that can be used no matter the industry you support, and no matter if you use an Agile or Waterfall approach. Daily Huddle, Tag Up, Brainstorms, Brown-Bags, Weekly Team Meeting, Working Sessions, Quarterly Meetings, Stand-ups, Scrums are among some of the other meeting names you might have heard in your workplace.
Whatever they are called, setting up meeting cadence helps build trust within your team by reinforcing shared goals and a sense that we are all working towards the same outcome. It also helps identify a sense of urgency to help the team adhere to timelines and encourages team members to openly communicate with each other and know what the overall expectations are in a unified effort.